Enjoyed Speaking, Would Do Again: My Analysis/Newbie Support Post

…and I didn’t even get the shepherd’s crook like performers sometimes do in the cartoons. Yesterday, I gave my very first genealogical presentation at the Ohio Genealogical Society’s Library in Bellville, Ohio. I’d like to thank Margaret Cheney for taking a chance on a newbie speaker such as myself. Hopefully, at the end of the presentation she was more inclined to pat herself on the back than slap herself on the forehead. Overall, I think for the first time out, it was a success. The presentation was an hour and half long, the topic: “Using Deeds In Your Genealogical Research.” Afterwards, I stayed and answered questions – both about deeds and general genealogical problems – for about forty-five minutes. I suppose that’s a sign of interest, right? Why am I writing this post? Because I must say, I was more nervous about this than anything in recent memory. Maybe the last time I changed an electrical outlet live, but probably not. I want to put this out there so that when someone else is thinking about, or getting ready to do this speaking thing and are as nervous as I was –  perhaps they’ll find this post, and be encouraged that things turned out okay, and provide some things to think about for their own situation. Here’s my breakdown of yesterday:

The Good

  1. No one asked me to leave, called me names, or threw anything at me…at least that I’m aware of.
  2. I actually seemed to have made almost all of the points that I wanted to make.
  3. After the first few minutes – basically once I made it through the introduction and remembered to breathe every now and then, I started to relax a little. Towards the end, I felt that I was starting to actually talk rather than regurgitate what I’d practiced.
  4. The material seemed geared to the appropriate level, and I did hear those precious words from a few people, “I learned something today.”
  5. I learned things, too: I learned about another county in Ohio that has online deed images, and I realized a new tip I should add to the presentation (that people can use their census records to help determine if their ancestor owned land)
  6. The Best: I included a list of all of the deed indexes and records in the handout that the OGS Library had listed in their catalog. As I was talking to the last few stragglers and putting the computer away, when an attendee came back into the room with a photocopy of deed she had gone into the library and made, and wanted to ask me a question about it. I thought it was pretty cool that she immediately went out to dig into these records, and it’s a nice thing that people are able to do that at a facility like OGS.

The Bad (and how I plan to fix or improve them):

  1. First, I never got around to making a critique form, so most of these comments are from my own perspective. (I think I will make one, duh.)
  2. Many of the things I had planned to try NOT to do, I still did. I said “umm” a little too much. Also, my presentation was example-heavy, so I ended up turning my back to the audience quite a bit to read the examples, or point out things in them. (It’s really hard to not do something to fill the space when you pause to remember the next point, but I need to be more aware that silence is okay. 1 second of real-time silence while you are speaking equates to 1 hour of “feels like” speaker-time. I need to figure out a way to better read and show the examples. The computer monitor is too small to try and read, so perhaps I need to print out all the text from the examples, so at least I am facing forwards. Given enough presentations, I could probably memorize all the examples.)
  3. Here’s something you don’t think about practicing at home: make sure your audience can see the screen. I didn’t think about it and set up the computer on the podium, which happened to be a spot that blocked the bottom center portion of the screen and didn’t realize it until about 3/4 way through. (I think I will move it next time, duh.)
  4. I did overlook one important point I should have made, and meant to make – that you will probably still find metes and bounds descriptions within a section in in the PLSS. I discovered that afterwards, when someone asked me about her copy of a deed. (I think I will try not to overlook it next time, duh.)
  5. I felt the last part of my presentation was probably the weakest, material-wise, and the end is a bad place to have less-interesting stuff. (No duhs here – this is a little trickier. Re-word or rework it? Re-order things or incorporate them in with other parts? Drop the majority of the last section and include it in the handout? This would have the added benefit of cutting the presentation to a more standard, hour-length presentation. I’ll have to work on this one.)
  6. I also need to find an example for the group analysis that is a little easier to read, but the same short length. (Adding a transcription to the copy I pass out would do also. That would have the added benefit of everyone seeing an example and realizing the importance of transcribing.)

The Ugly:

Now, I’m not going to say that I’m not photogenic, but damn. No, rather than me being non-photogenic, I prefer to think that they just haven’t invented a camera fast enough to capture the flashes of brilliance and speed of wit that comprise my appearance…or something like that.

So at the end of the day, I survived, and am ready to take another shot when I get the chance. I am also going to start developing some new talks, probably along the same topic lines. I’ll probably work on one for platting/locating property, and am thinking about one discussing all of the different land grants and survey areas that make up Ohio.

If you’re out there thinking about taking the plunge, let Nike’s marketing be your guide (that means Just Do It, for you non-athletes/TV-watchers)

Apparently, I am also qualified to talk about how to turn a blog post that was intended to be more of a blurb into a really long post. Thanks for sticking with me!

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