Warning: This post is not entirely about genealogy and is slightly self-indulgent.
One year ago today I made my speaking debut at the Ohio Genealogical Society’s Library summer speaker series, presenting the first-ever performance of “Using Deeds In Your Genealogical Research”. Honestly, I was scared to death. They say that in order to grow, you should do things that scare you, and I think that over the course of the past year, I have definitely grown, and not just as a speaker. After that initial presentation, I received several offers to speak at various local societies. I took them all because I saw it as a chance for continued growth.
And you know what? I’m still not really comfortable speaking – at least not in the first few minutes. I often tell people that, “oh, I’m not a natural speaker.” When I say that, I’m being honest, not modest. I’m really not a natural speaker. Here’s the catch, though: after I survive the first few minutes of terror and my throat doesn’t need me reminding it to open up and breathe now and then, I REALLY like talking to people about genealogy. I like sharing what I know. I love that people want to learn, that they’ve chosen to learn something from me. That’s a responsibility I take very seriously.
Today, I returned to the Ohio Genealogical Society library for an anniversary of sorts. I had about an hour-long presentation planned about developing a research plan. I actually managed to finish in about the right time frame, and pressed on to the case study in which we were supposed to take a look at a complicated real-world research problem, show the initial research plan that I developed, and as a group develop research plans to help solve the larger problem from there.
However, after we created the plans, the audience wanted to know about the results – what actually resulted from the research plans. So I started to explain it on the fly, never having once practiced this part of the program. I explained how I correlated evidence, resolved conflicts, and then made suggestions for further research. They questioned the whole way through. They were absorbed. I was absorbed. Two hours went by and not only did no one leave, no one looked like they wanted to leave. Once we went to the case study, I tried my best to keep relating everything back to research planning but ultimately it evolved into a different, second presentation about evidence analysis – one I hadn’t even thought of, much less practiced.
What is the point of all this? I loved it – more so the second, unplanned half than the first. When you as a speaker love what you are doing, the audience will generally love it too. For me, it all comes back to the research process. That’s what I love. From now on, all of my new presentations are going to be case-study based. Once I have the audience engaged, then I can slip in methodology, the GPS, and whatever else is appropriate.
Do what you love. Money may not necessarily follow, but happiness probably will.