Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Life of a Genealogical Speaker

I just got finished reading Thomas MacEntee's article "Genealogy Conferences - Delivering the Content." This article is all about what it is really like to be a genealogical speaker.
Thomas' discussion really hits the nail on the head by providing an accurate view of life as a speaker.  I can't disagree with anything he says, either positive and negative.

From the outside being a genealogical speaker may seem glamorous.  As a speaker I don't find it that way.  I would say fun and a lot of hard work would be more accurate. 

Take it Easy!

One thing that really struck a cord with me was when he said, "Don’t schedule speaking engagements too close together.  They wear you out and you don’t notice until you’ve done 10 presentations in a month and wonder why you are so tired!"

I try to schedule two talks a month.  That seems to work well with me.  I just finished presenting 10 talks in the last 6 weeks.  That's equivalent to what I would normally do over five months. That was way over the limit for me.  I can honestly attest that while I love speaking it was too much.  Now I just feel exhausted.  When you become exhausted it's harder to be as good a speaker. I'll be more careful in the future not to over-schedule myself.  In the meantime I'm going to rest up before giving more talks.

The Money

And just to re-iterate what Thomas said, there isn't a whole lot of money in speaking to the genealogical community.  Looking back, I think if I could do anything differently I probably would have published something earlier in my speaking career.  I think speaking and publishing go quite nicely together.

The Future

Thomas discussed webinars, virtual presentations and live streaming as models of the future.  I like this trend for all the possibilities that it has offer.  It has great potential for the speakers and the audience.  Speakers can reach a broader audience without all the travel.  And genealogists can take advantage of great educational opportunities without leaving home.  Both the speakers and the audience save money, time and wear and tear.

I admit that from the speaker's point of view a webinar is very different.  I didn't think that I would like it because there wouldn't be an audience sitting in front of me to give visual clues or add to the chemistry of the event.  But after trying it, I admit that there are certain aspects of webinars that I like.  I kind of had fun pretending I was a DJ sitting in front of my computer and talking into a microphone.  Ask me again if I still feel that way after I've given one hundred webinars.  But for now I'll keep trying it.

Don't Force It!

If you are thinking about becoming a genealogical speaker, or perhaps you've already started, my advice to you would be don't force it.  Do it because you love it.  Being a speaker is a great way to ensure you keep your subject knowledge sharp.  It feels really good when you really know your stuff.  Speaking can also be really fun if you enjoy public speaking and meeting people. Not everyone does.  And while traveling can get a bit grueling, having the chance to meet other genealogists and experts in different locations can often make up for that.

Let's Hear from the Audience

I'd like to hear from the audience.  What's your point of view?  What do you like or don't like about attending talks (at conferences, meetings, webinars or other)? What do you like about speakers?  What's the most important take-away from a genealogical talk - new knowledge, an entertaining speaker, or something else?

I bet I can become a better speaker from listening to your point of view.

1 comment:

  1. Marian,

    Great response to Thomas' "challenge" to you. OK, I guess that I can say "us", but I don't consider myself in the same category as you.

    In the past year or so, I have found myself speaking about my hobby. Never thought I would have said that a couple of years ago, but then I would have never thought I would be blogging either.

    As of last week, I have spoken in public, to a Family History Interest Group, two Historical Societies, a non-genealogy group, a couple of Virtual Presentations, and helped with a Webinar.

    Each of them is different. People, no people; presentation screens, message board, control panel; travel, no travel. Each one is a challenge.

    I have come to appreciate what you (all) do for US, those that participate or attend one of your presentations.

    I am glad that mentioned "don't force it". I really needed to hear that, as I am working on a new presentation for the end of the month. It was a great reminder.

    Since I have participated in a Webinar and a live presentation that you have been the presenter, I must say that I have Learned something in both environments. To me, that is the calmness and knowledge that you are presenting to us.

    To me, with the willingness of you and your colleagues, to speak in person or virtually, is outstanding. As one of your "fans", I appreciate ALL that you do, and that you share your expertise with us.

    My question to you, and others, is how can WE, the listener help YOU the presenter.

    I know that for me, its the fun in putting the presentation together, keeping the length of the presentation within the time limit, keep on script, and not get thrown by the questions.

    Thank you for ALL that you do.