Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Presenting at Seminars and Societies - My View

In Genealogical Conferences - The Magic Recipe, Thomas MacEntee encourages genea-bloggers to write posts this week about genealogy conference and seminar issues.  The topic for Wednesday is supposed to be:

"Delivering the Content – on Wednesday, May 4, 2011, the series continues with a look at what it takes to be a speaker or presenter at a genealogy conference.  Everything from the call for papers, to signing the contract, to making the presentation – we want to know everything involved from the speakers’ perspective. Tell us about the glamour, the limelight, the adoring fans; and tell us about the preparation, the travel and all the ugly details as well."

I have intentionally NOT submitted proposals to present at national or regional conferences for two reasons - I don't plan that far ahead (the calls for proposals is usually 12 to 18 months ahead of the event) which conferences I'll attend, and my "stable" of presentations is usually about the latest online genealogy offerings, which are covered at conferences by the providers themselves (e.g., Ancestry, FamilySearch, RootsMagic, etc.).  There may be an element of self-confidence here too!  Frankly, I want to enjoy a multi-day conference by attending presentations by experts, perusing the vendor exhibits, and interacting with my colleagues. 

I do speak at Southern California area genealogical societies, and have really enjoyed meeting Genea-Musings readers in Long Beach, Yorba Linda, Corona, Carlsbad, Escondido, Encinitas, La Jolla, San Diego and Chula Vista.  

Glamour?  Limelight?  Adoring Fans?  Travel Fun?  Right.  Where are my groupies?  Do I need to give away Genea-Musings T-shirts with a pithy saying (like "I think, therefore I write")?  I must say that attendees at my talks are very friendly and encouraging, which I, and all speakers, really appreciate.  It keeps us going, and tells us that we're doing things right.  The only downside is the 100 miles each way it takes to drive to the Los Angeles area for a talk to a new society.  The bright side is the offer to put Linda and I up for the night after the talk (thank you Jean and Ruth!) - we've enjoyed being in the homes of other genealogists and sharing time and meals with them.  I really enjoy observing how other genealogical societies run their meetings and do their publicity, and try to take some of those ideas back to my local society. 

My seminar presentation experience is limited to the Chula Vista Genealogical Society.  In 2008, I did a four session seminar that taxed my endurance.  I remember having cramps in my hand and forearm from gripping the handheld microphone, and recall that my back and feet really hurt afterwards.  I have tremendous respect for presenters that do multi-session presentations in one day. 

Preparation?  Since I speak about actively changing websites and my own research experiences, my presentation content often changes from month to month.  A new presentation usually takes 20 to 30 hours to develop and, if I'm lucky, I can use it 3 to 5 times, but it needs to be updated each time.  I usually make two versions - a 50 minute version and an 80 minute version.  The difference is one or two content "modules," with each "module" being 15 to 20 minutes in length. Why two versions?  Well, one of my local societies (San Diego Genealogical Society) has two 45 minute program segments. The Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego usually has one long 75 minute program segment. 

I tend to stuff too much information into my presentations - it's not unusual for me to have over 60 slides in a 50 minute presentation, or 100 slides in an 80 minute presentation set.  Many of them are screen shots with highlighted areas.  I try to speak about the pretty pictures, and minimize the text pages.  I use OpenOffice 3.2 for my presentations (a PowerPoint look-alike) and use a fairly plain format with a title block, a text area and a thumbnail image in the upper right-hand corner (kind of a holdover from my aerospace engineering background).  Not much flash and dance - but lots of information. 

I have not had any real problems with speaker venues or equipment problems - probably because I don't have as much experience as others have.  I take my own laptop with the OpenOffice presentation, and a PDF version of it, on the hard drive.  I take two flash drives with the presentation and handout- one in the laptop bag and one in my pocket in case the laptop dies or is stolen.  I put the presentation files on Google Docs in case something really bad happens to my equipment.  I have had no bad experiences, yet, with hooking up my laptop with the projectors furnished by the host societies.  I do not have my own personal projector yet.  I did have a problem with my pointer unit - it didn't work at my last SDGS talk and I had to advance my slides manually.  I like to have the laptop sitting on the podium, but the SDGS venue doesn't permit that, so I spoke while seated which is not ideal.

The rewards?  The speaker honorariums cover the travel and presentation expenses, and I appreciate them.  Working with a relatively small society in Chula Vista, I understand the budget problems of all genealogical societies.  Could I make a living from speaker honorariums?  Not a chance, even if I presented to every local, regional and national seminar/conference.  My rewards are meeting genealogical colleagues and readers, and, hopefully, providing information that helps other researchers pursue their elusive ancestors.


Jim Smith said...

One word - Bingo!

Judy Webster said...

I was interested to read about your experiences. Mine are described on Genealogy Leftovers.

Leslie Albrecht Huber said...

Very interesting to read. I think you may have inspired me to write about this on my blog soon... I think all speakers can agree (but maybe I'm wrong on this...) that you can never feed the family with genealogy speaking.