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

  1. Congratulations Chris! We all started somewhere – and this post is a great introspective analysis. Still, after being a corporate trainer for 20 years and a genealogy speaker for the last 3 years, I also do the analysis after every talk.

    Some ideas/resources for you:

    – look at creating an evaluation form on Google Forms and place a link here on the blog. This way you can also market your blog to the participants and have them go there to fill out the evaluation.

    – I still catch myself with ums and ahs. Think about joining your local Toastmasters International for a supportive environment to improve your speaking skills.

    Cheers

  2. Glad the talk went well. Last month I sent out a press release about the one-year anniversary of my blog. I was worse than my students in that I put it off ’til the last minute. I was absolutely terrified when I hit send. But nobody who got the email fire-bombed my house, so I call the whole thing a success.

    Amanda

  3. Congratulations on getting your feet wet! And thank you for sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly. Speaking is something I am wanting to begin doing so your points will be most helpful.

  4. avatar Chris Staats says:

    Thomas – thank you for the positive comments and the google form is a great idea. Do you also do paper forms in the presentation, or just give them the link? It seems like people would be more candid of they were not sitting right in front of you, trying to fill the form and get on to the next thing. Seems like a downside might be that you get less feedback, though as people tend to not follow through. Have you found that to be the case? I’ve done in-service presentations at my day job, so speaking was not something completely foreign to me. But I honestly think it’s a whole different ballgame when you are talking about something that you are truly interested. Whether or not you do well is something that is more personal when you are passionate about the subject, I think.

    Amanda – I think you’re probably more at risk of firebombing from former college students than recipients of press releases :)

    And Michelle, yes you need to go do it. One additional tip: I made the mistake of picking a date “later in the summer” so I could theoretically have more time to work on the presentation. But what actually happened was that I found I had more time to think about the whole thing, which was not necessarily a good thing. It’s like going off the high dive – sometimes it’s better to just jump than stand up there too long.

  5. Congratulations! I think you’ve made a very objective self-evaluation. I’m new to genealogy speaking, but not to public speaking, so that first time out always has a little bit of anxiety associate with it. Glad you made it through and I hope this is the first of many!

  6. Congrats Chris! And thank you for writing such an honest and candid review of yourself.

    I still remember the first time I did a presentation for genealogy and I was absolutely terrified. I just kept praying that I would keep calm enough to not shake (which makes my voice shaky and hard to hear and understand).

    Most of the time when I show up for my talk, people look at me like I’m a lost child or something and one of my biggest fears is that they will think of me as someone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about. But luckily people tend to realize I know what I’m talking about after about 10 minutes of hearing me speak.

  7. avatar Taneya says:

    Great post. It will not only be of great help to yourself, but also to others. I’ve done many presentations for work, but have not yet done any genealogy ones. It’s something I hope to do one day so I especially appreciate the points you make.

  8. avatar Janell says:

    Good job! The first time is always the worst. The first time I presented at our local genealogy library, they actually provided the evaluation form, had them fill it out on the spot, and I got to see them right after. I wouldn’t have thought of it either. It may be something you can even suggest to them to create to evaluate all their presenters. It was great to get their comments back right away. It doesn’t bring them to your blog, though, that’s true… Maybe the handout would do that?