Saturday, July 4, 2015

Tips for Genealogy Presenters

I have been notified that someone is sharing a page I posted on Weebly a few years ago when I was playing with that platform (reminder tto GeniAus - ake the old site down).

As I think what I wrote is still pertinent I am sharing it here:

Tips for Genealogy Presenters


My commitment to CGD exposes me to a range of presenters. Over the last eighteen months I have  attended a number of seminars and talks on genealogy and related subjects. Some presenters have been excellent and some have been downright woeful. In a blog post in 2010 I made some suggestions that may assist presenters at genealogy events. I am updating that here.
I have also suggested that Keynote Speakers should Inspire, Challenge, Educate, Engage, Entertain and Inform but believe that all speakers should aim to do more than one of these in each presentation.
Having knowledge of a subject does not qualify one as a competent and engaging presenter.

Each of these points could have helped one or some of the speakers I have heard recently.  

Before the Event
  • Update your knowledge of the topic
  • Get prior information on your audience 
  • Liaise with the host before the event to ensure that you share similar expectations for the event.
  • Be prepared for technology failure with a backup plan. Save copies of your presentation on the internet, a thumb drive, a CD. Have some printed notes for reference in case of complete tech failure.
  • Ensure that marketing/advertising materials accurately reflect the content and level of your talk.
  • Practice your talk in front of a trusted and honest friend or colleague and use their feedback to polish your work
  • Make sure that you have enough content/slides to fill the allotted time. 
  • Maintain regular contact with the hosting organisation.
  • Prepare a handout or disk for distribution to participants or provide links to the presentation on the internet
  • Dress appropriately for the situation 
  • Arrive early and check the setup
  • If you will be using the internet visit the sites you intend to show on the presentation computer  before the talk so that they are cached on your hard drive and quickly retrieved. 

During the Event
  • Ascertain if audience members have auditory or visual issues and try to accommodate their needs.
  • Set the scene by giving some background information on yourself
  • Ask a few of the attendees: Why are you here? or What do you hope to get out of today's presentation?"
  • If it's a small group or an all day seminar invest a few minutes in finding out something about each person in the group.
  • State the rules of the game - Are you happy to be interrupted or do you want people to keep questions to the end? Can people record your talk? Can they take photographs?
  • I shouldn't have to say this -  Never, ever read a prepared speech word for word
  • Start with an overview of the presentation's content - Outline your goals for the gig
  • State your relationship to products being demonstrated - Some talks are thinly veiled marketing exercises/infomercials - Be honest and upfront about your connections to vendors/products
  • Display enthusiasm or passion for your subject
  • Establish and maintain eye contact with the audience 
  • Speak clearly, coherently and with animation - Engage your audience through good communciation
  • Avoid Death by Powerpoint - You are the presenter and the focus
  • Remember the people at the back of the room - Use a large (30point+) font on your slides)
  • Smiles are free - Use them liberally
  • Sprinkle your talk with anecdotes and analogies - But don't overdo it
  • Use visual aids and artefacts to embellish your talk - Cater for individual learning styles of participants
  • Pepper your talk with questions. Pose a question or problem and give the attendees a minute or two to discuss it with their neighbour. Ask a few to share their thoughts.
  • Graciously accept all contributions to the conversation. Avoid putdowns.
  • Always take a question - if is too complex to be answered immediately put it on a 'parking lot' list to be answered at the end of the presentation
  • When showing internet sites connect to the site - avoid screenshots - use these as backups for times of technology failure 
  • When quoting a URL have an accompanying slide in large font or have a word processing doc opened in the background into which you can quickly tyre the URL
  • When talking about software - Accompany with a live demonstration
  • Be honest - If you don't know the answer to a question say so  
  • There may be experts in your audience who can add value to the event - Accept their comments graciously
  • Provide handouts in hard copy or provide a link to a site where a soft copy can be found.
  • Reiterate your goals at the end of the talk 

  • Invite feedback via a printed or online feedback form - Offer a prize draw for completed forms
  • Set aside some time to talk to audience members individually after talk
  • Provide contact details for audience followup 
  • Use audience feedback to amend and polish your presentation for next time

Please, genealogy presenters, recognise that learning is a collaborative exercise. Involve your students. You can learn from them and give them and yourselves a richer learning experience. Updated 12/4/2012


Sharon said...

Excellent Jill! And all points are relevant for all speakers not just Genealogy.

Unknown said...

This is fantastic advice. I have been a speaker for years, presented in 46 states and 7 in Canada and 2 in Cancun--many five hour long talks. I contracted with a company that would fire you if you did not get almost all perfect evaluations.

And you learn fast what works and what does not. Knowing your topic is not remotely the same as presenting it in an engaging and enjoyable way.

I went to one genealogy program about 25 miles away through city traffic/. The program was about following immigrant trails. The presenter in her description in the program did not mention she only meant 1870s and after. The program was utterly meaningless to me, whose ancestors arrived by 1854. Don't do this to us!


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