Unless you have presented at a genealogy conference, such as the Family History Expo starting tomorrow, 6 July 2012, you may not realize the amount of preparation that goes into putting together your material. I had quite a bit of experience before I did a presentation at my first genealogy conference, because I taught continuing education classes for both Realtors and attorneys over the years. In all of those classes, it was imperative to have extensive class materials. But I never used a computer or PowerPoint presentation. Adding the computer has added in a whole new level of complication to the preparation process.
I usually try to do my presentations and classes live off the Internet, although I know that there are some presenters that think this is instant death. I have had trouble getting on websites and having the network go down, but by and large, live classes have been successful. On the other hand, I have used PowerPoint presentations in several classes lately and can see the advantage of having organized slides. I am seriously considering expanding my PowerPoint presentations to more classes.
But that does bring up a problem. Time. A good PowerPoint presentation takes a lot of time to prepare. There is a benefit from the standpoint of organization and communication, but it is also more restraining, especially if you are teaching about something that is changing as rapidly as technology as it relates to genealogy.
At the upcoming Northern California Family History Expo, I will be teaching six different classes on six different subjects. Just doing the syllabus materials is a challenge, much less working through the subjects with PowerPoints. Most of the classes I have taught many, many times before, so that gives me some idea of what needs to be covered and what is better left unsaid, but that does not resolve some of the unforeseen problems that can arise without a structured presentation to work from.
On the other hand, I have seen some really interesting and challenging presentations using PowerPoint and I have seen some really boring ones using PowerPoint also. Using a presentation program does not guarantee a good or interesting presentation. Most of the time, after a presentation, I like to find someone who was there and try to get them to give me an assessment of how the class went. It helps if the person has seen me present before, in fact, it really helps if my wife comes because she will tell me exactly how the class went, good or bad. But I do find that feedback is important.
I know that there are many people who could do a good job presenting, if they could over come their fear of speaking in front of audience. Fortunately, (or unfortunately) after 37 years or so of law and trial work, speaking in front of an audience is nothing compared to closing arguments before a jury.
If you have the opportunity to come to the Family History Expo here in Sacramento and manage to make it to one of my classes, stop by after the class and tell me how the class went. Good, bad or indifferent. I would like to know. Having someone tell you the class went well is not a helpful as saying, like my wife does on occasion, no one could hear you, you need to use the mike and make sure it is turned up enough. See what I mean?