07 September 2017

Sharing the Love

At a recent genealogy conference I met a distant Facebook friend for the first time. The person was aware of this, my blog, and had visited it more than once.

I was asked:
"Brenda, why don't you consider speaking engagements? You should give talks at these conferences."
As if the idea were new. The tone was encouraging.

After a momentary blink I realized that the average blog visitor sees only the latest post and knows nothing of the blogger's history. If there is any history. Or if the visitor cares to explore a step further.

Blogger ‒ the medium ‒ does provide a "View my complete profile" page the visitor can click on. When I checked, mine says 
            "Life happens, and then we die."

Smartass, yes; biographically revealing, no. What was I thinking? Probably that a bullet-point resumé would sound just like all my contemporary colleagues who frequented perennial conference programs. 

BC Genealogical Society, Richmond BC, 1991

The answer to "considering" it, dear Facebook friend, is complex. First of all, I've done it. For twenty-five years I did it as a Certified Genealogical Lecturer®. At dozens of Ontario Genealogical Society branches and annual conferences. Dozens of venues across the country and in the U.S.A. with NGS and FGS. There were extra special events: being invited to speak at the 150th anniversary of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (1995); the International Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences (1996); the first and only (so far) Great Lakes Conference in Fort Wayne (1994).

With Sylvie Tremblay, Quebec City, 1996

A conference in Brandon MB saw me accidentally sharing the ensuite bathroom with David E. Gardner, author of the then-standard English genealogical textbook; I saw the Blue Jays win the World Series while on a weekend engagement in Saskatoon; I was detained at the border on the way to Grand Traverse MI; that NH motel of critical U.S. election Primaries; in 1996 I gave the APG luncheon talk, "Marrying, Divorcing, and Murdering Your Relatives" ... plenty of stories where all that came from.

Secondly, some people are born to public speaking. I am not. I had to train myself to feel comfortable, to enunciate clearly without raising my voice, to adopt a spontaneity that did not come naturally for question times. In other words, to perform. I'm a writer, not a speaker.

Thirdly, every speaker on the genealogy circuit will tell you it's not only the endless hours of preparation for your podium notes (reading a "paper" is never acceptable), it's also the timing, tailoring to audience level, creating accompanying visuals, the handouts, syllabus material, and complying with equipment and conference arrangements. Before that, thankless hours are spent composing submissions to a call for papers. Hard work.

National Institute of Genealogical Studies, 2004

Is it worth it? Oh yes. The token honorarium is negligible in the grand scheme of things. But the opportunity to be there at yet another gathering of like-minded colleagues, always learning yourself, is its own reward. Best of all, it only takes one person to thank you for a new insight, a new resource, a new research avenue, to restore equilibrium.

Speaking engagements ... one aspect of a professional genealogist's life.

Is it time to update "my complete profile"? Yesterday's child, my friend. Probably age-related. Ya think?


© 2017 Brenda Dougall Merriman