Thursday, November 17, 2011

What to do?

I am a genealogy event junkie who regularly attends talks, seminars etc. around Sydney, on various topics related to family history. Sometimes I am familiar with the content of the talk, at other times the material delivered is new to me. However, I always learn something that I can apply to my practice.

At times I criticise speakers for their lack of speaking and presentation skills but I have not, until recently, heard a speaker who demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the topic under discussion. All other speakers I have heard have possessed a deep knowledge of their topics.

This has posed a quandary for me. The audience at this event was made up mainly of beginning genealogists who listened intently and took notes during the presentation. This talk was riddled with inaccuracies and misinformation with the speaker being unable to answer simple questions on the topic. I chimed in with answers and extra information a few times but did not want to be a fly in the ointment during the presentation.  The presenter was confused enough as it was. My concern is that these newbies have gone away from the talk with a load of codswallop.

The speaker's intentions were honourable, they had a nice personality and demonstrated a willingness to help others. It appears that the hosting institution asked this presenter to speak on this particular topic, the presenter stated that they went away, did a bit of homework and prepared the talk. Unfortunately that homework lacked the depth needed to present this topic adequately.

So what do I do? Do I write to someone at the hosting institution telling them my concerns? Do I let sleeping dogs lie?

9 comments:

Marian Pierre-Louis said...

Honestly, I would ask, how close are you to the organization? How will this critique impact your relationship with them? Does that matter to you? Do you think they would be receptive to it?

In an ideal world constructive feedback is always welcome. I think it is usually better when you know the leadership/organizers well.

I would want to give the feedback. Sometimes I don't think and I just provide feedback perhaps too abruptly. If I stop and think first, sometimes I think too much.

If you are lucky and have more finesse than me in these kind of situations then this might not be a problem at all! :)

As for speakers who don't know their stuff - there's no excuse. If you don't know it, don't do it!

Judy Webster said...

I once faced the same dilemma myself. It's painful, but I think you need to find a diplomatic way to let the organisers know how you feel. I feel sad for the speaker, who may have been fine if he/she had been allowed to talk about a different topic.

cassmob said...

As difficult as it is I think you need to talk to the organisers as diplomatically as possible.

It sounds as if the person was doing their best, but out of their depth, having been given a topic they were unfamiliar with. It sounds as if they probably went away knowing it didn't go well.

Again, this comes back to the organisers. We all make mistakes but this one will have adverse knock-on effects.

Helen V Smith said...

It is difficult but I think, once you have let 48 hours elapse for clear thinking, a diplomatic letter stating you had attended the presentation, the presenter whilst presenting in a reasonable presenting manner, did not have the depth of knowledge of the topic required in a presenter and that a number if inaccuracies were detected.

It is potentially difficult for your future relations with the society but there is also the ethical decision about the impact on those researchers and future researchers.

Shauna Hicks said...

I agree with other comments but looking at it from the presenter's viewpoint - if I was not giving out correct information I would want to know and in the past people (usually friends but not always) have drawn my attention to whatever the faux pas (or plural)is and I fix it up etc.
If the talk was outside their area of expertise then perhaps they might welcome the constructive feedback - most speakers like comments good/bad so that they can continue to improve/meet expectations.
So perhaps as well as mentioning it to the organisers, consider how to mention/discuss with the speaker too. Although that could be more problematic if they thought they had done a good job.
Good luck.

Thomas MacEntee said...

IMHO: it depends on whether or not this person were to take this lecture "on the circuit" - I would not want to see another society or organization contract with the speaker and have their attendees subjected to a similar experience.

But if this was a person from within the society who had been asked to do this, I probably wouldn't pursue it. I'd be more concerned if a professional speaker with multiple points of exposure to large audiences of beginning genealogists were able to repeat the misinformation over and over.

Sue McCormick said...

The others who commented know more about this than I do; especially Marian Pierre-Louis and Thomas McKentee; but I appear to have had a thought no one else has brought up.

Could you offer to do a follow-up presentation in 3 to 6 months (scheduled a good distance away from your RootsTech commitment)? In the follow-up, bring up some advanced points, and also suggest ways to do the work that clears up the misconceptions that the orignal speaker provided.

This might be both tactful and useful in providing better guidance.

Sue

Jill Ball said...

As a famous Australian boxer once said "I love you's all"

Thank you, everyone, for your advice that I am digesting before I contact the organisation.

You have demonstrated the collaborative power of blogging with your thoughtful responses.

Joan Miller (Luxegen) said...

Jill, I agree with the comments stated. I think it would be valuable feedback for the speaker and the organization but if this is a one-off presentation and not one that is going to be taken on the road, I doubt I would pursue it to vigoursly. Many of these people are volunteers doing the best they can, inadequate as that might be as shown in this case. Perhaps after some time has elapsed you could offer to give a presentation to the same audience that would have correct information.

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