HomeThoughts and MusingsOne Year Ago Today…My Speaking Career In Review

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.


One Year Ago Today…My Speaking Career In Review — 1 Comment

  1. Congratulations! I had done a few short talks to small groups (terrifying and I was surprised that I didn’t die) when I was approached to speak at a major festival. I bit the bullet and agreed to do it. Despite horrendous nervousness, the presentation went great, but as you say, it’s the Q & A which is the fun part, probably because you’re interacting with the audience and not just talking at them. Also, when you’re confident you know your subject well it’s easy to answer. Yep – do what you love 🙂