After a couple of weeks of planning and developing my first presentation, Genealogy 101: Gathering Branches on Your Family Tree, I made it through! I have, for quite some time, been wanting to prepare a genealogy beginner lecture. I love to talk, I love to teach, and I love to share, so it makes sense that I should share what I love. The Friends of the Library in town wanted to host a genealogy presentation and I was honored that I was asked.
I was told that 22 people had signed up but when I arrived today, the number was up to 26. There were a few more walk-ins, but having prepared 30 folders of handouts, everything went quite smoothly. There was plenty of space and enough seats for everyone, with just a few to spare. The room was of moderate size with good acoustics, so there was no need for a microphone to speak.
Being quite the lucky lecturer, I have my own personal teenage technology assistant. I have seen many notes telling of disasters due to technical malfunctions and it is a big relief not to have to worry about that sort of thing. I made my presentation in PowerPoint but didn’t realize at the time that I needed a solution to be able to see my notes, without wasting paper to print them. I was able to print as pdf using pdf995 and used the resultant pdf file on my ipad at the lectern, while leaving my laptop, which I was able to control by remote, on the table with the projector. My new Targus Laser Presentation remote worked seamlessly.
At first I was cognizant of speaking slowly, as I tend to talk very quickly. I have been that way since I was a little kid - my mind races quickly and my mouth follows right along! I had added a few new slides and didn’t time the program in advance, which may have been a mistake. I looked at the clock during my program and time was about half up and I was not quite near the middle of the presentation. I realized that I needed to go more quickly and I think it was at this point that I became less mindful about speaking slowly. I did finish almost exactly at the one hour mark, but I had to gloss over a few things that I would have liked to talk more about. I have come to the conclusion that I need to either remove material from the program or make it into a 90 minute program.
As far as content, I included basic things such as where to find information, types of source information, and what to do with that information once you find it. I touched on software options, types of charts and forms, and free online resources. I stressed the need to cite your sources and I am thrilled that several people included this as the best thing that they learned at my presentation. One person even mentioned “GPS & sources” as the best things learned. Jackpot! I feel like I really did a good deed for the genealogy community today. If we, as genealogists, can teach newcomers to the field about the importance of quality, we can head off the “junk genealogy” at the pass.
All in all, I think it went very well. Of the 24 evaluation forms that were turned in, 19 had all 4 (good) and 5 (excellent) ratings. On three of the forms I had a 3 (adequate) for “the speech was well-delivered” and on two of them, a 2 (fair). All of those people noted something along the lines of ”talked too fast”. One of the people who gave a 2 for delivery hand-wrote “talk too fast” but also circled 5 (excellent) and wrote in “content”. I am generally pleased with the results but I know I have to slow down next time. Even my mom tells me to slow down, so it’s nothing I haven’t heard before! It was clear that some people really liked the quick pace and information-packed session, but a few may have found it to be a bit overwhelming.
I’m not exactly sure where to find the balance. Of course I don’t want people falling asleep, but I don’t want people to feel that they’re in a graduate physics course, either. I am accustomed to attending presentations by genealogists (and sometimes scientists or other professionals) for genealogists. I’m sure there are always some who find the information to be basic and others who find it to be complicated, but I suppose the key is to find the place of optimal enjoyment for both individual skill levels.
Surprisingly, about 80% of the questions after the session focused on DNA, which I mentioned only briefly as a research tool in one slide. This started to lead the topic of questions into more advanced discussion, which I really tried to avoid during this beginner session. DNA is not really a beginner genealogy topic! I did not want people to feel like I feel when I listen to someone like Spencer Wells or Mike Hammer give a talk. While they are both brilliant scientists and wonderful speakers, they can make my brain hurt. (Although I must admit, being the sort of nerd that I am, I kind of like that.) I had several requests for a DNA specific program, so I think that is something I will begin to develop. Since it’s one of my favorite research tools, I love that other people like it, too.
I think I will offer to present this same program for another Friends of the Library organization. The second time around, I will be able to focus more on the actual delivery of the program rather than the construction of the program. I was thrilled to have almost all 5′s for my program content and next time I’d like to see all 4′s and 5′s for program delivery, as well!