Archive for the ‘Presentations & Lectures’ Category

Looking Back on ’11, Forward to ’12

New Year’s Day is a time for reflection on the past, and a time for assessing one’s goals and future plans.

Since I started this blog, I have used it as a way to gauge my professional progress. You can read about my goals from previous years in these earlier posts:

Last year I did not set public goals for myself. I think I meant to do so, but somehow neglected to write the post. Due to this neglect, I will instead note some of my accomplishments in 2011, and set some goals for myself in 2012. (Much more like what I did in the first post above, for 2009/2010.)

I am a bit taken back when I look at what I have accomplished this past year. I managed so much more than I imagined possible a year ago. In no particular order, these are some of the accomplishments of which I am personally most proud:

1. At the end of January 2011, I published the ebook Online State Resources for Genealogists. Within less than a week I had sold about 200 copies, which is far more than I expected. I originally planned to have an update prepared by mid-summer, but this has not yet been completed. I will be working hard this month to have the update finished by the end of January.

2. Also in January, I was reelected to another 2-year stint as Vice-President of the National Capital Area Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists.

3. In March I completed the 18-month ProGen Study Group educational program. This was very helpful in networking with other “transitional” genealogists over the course of the program. We all certainly learned a lot from each other, and from our mentor J. Mark Lowe, CG.

4. Though I was unable to attend the National Genealogical Society’s annual conference in Charleston, South Carolina, in May, it was still a momentous occasion for me. It marked the debut of my publication Genealogy at a Glance: African American Genealogy Research (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2011), and the announcement of the winners of the 2010 International Society of Family History Writers & Editors Excellence in Writing Competition. My article, “Learning from Genealogical Failure,” won 1st Prize in the “Newspaper Columns” category.

5. In May, amid a very active blogging discussion concerning professional genealogy, I renamed, revamped, and relaunched this blog. It was originally called “Tricks of the Tree” when I started blogging in 2008, but my blogging was sporadic at best: 7 posts in 2008, 19 posts in 2009, and just 4 posts in 2010. Since the relaunch as “Planting the Seeds” in May, I have written 123 posts!

6. In June I again attended the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research at Samford University (Birmingham, Alabama), completing Elizabeth Shown Mills’s “Advanced Methodology & Evidence Analysis” course.

7. In July 2011 I achieved my primary professional goal by becoming a Certified Genealogist(sm) through the Board for Certification of Genealogists.

8. From May through October I worked with the National Park Service researching a community of slaves that once lived on Monocacy National Battlefield. The results of my research are currently being developed into an exhibit that will debut in January 2012, and research is expected to continue in 2012 and 2013.

9. In November the Association of Professional Genealogists announced that I had been elected to the APG Board of Directors, for the Southeast Region for 2012-2013.

10. At the end of November I published my first instructional book, aimed at genealogical lecturers: Show ‘N’ Tell: Creating Effective and Attractive Genealogy Presentations. Unlike my previous self-published books, this book does not contain transcriptions or indexes of record sources. Completing the writing was a major accomplishment for me.

And now my goals for 2012:

1. Continue to design new presentations. I already have quite a few presentations scheduled for 2012, including two lectures at the 2012 National Genealogical Society annual conference, and four lectures at the 2012 Institute for Genealogical and Historical Research at Samford University. I have all-day workshops of four lectures each scheduled in Oklahoma and Tennessee, and single lectures scheduled in Maryland and Pennsylvania. I also have two webinars for Legacy Family Tree scheduled, and an appearance on the “Research at the National Archives and Beyond” Internet radio show with host Bernice Bennett on BlogTalkRadio.com. However, I would like to create more new presentations, so that I am not merely giving the same presentations over and over again. (You can see all of my currently scheduled future engagements using the Calendar in the right sidebar.)

2. Complete some books that have been sitting on my shelf. I have made significant progress on several books, but have not yet finished them. One of them contains transcriptions of Civil War draft exemptions in Baltimore city, Maryland. Other subjects include St. Mary’s County, Maryland, tax papers, and Prince George’s County, Maryland, estate inventories. All of these books have been sitting on my shelf.

3. Finish my updated edition of Online State Resources for Genealogy. I have made significant progress to this end, but I really want to take a few days and get this update finished. This involves not only adding new resources, but also a redesign. I also want to make an edition to be used in e-readers. While I am at it, I would also like to make the updates semiannual rather than annual (so hopefully another update in June or July).

4. Get started on some new books. I have a series of books in mind that I have barely started working on, but I really need to hanker down and hammer them out. I won’t reveal the subject of this series yet, but I believe that it will be greatly appreciated when complete.

5. Have an article accepted for publication in an academic journal. I have two case studies that I am writing up for the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, and another that I intend for The Genealogist. I also have an article in mind for a historical journal, probably the Maryland Historical Magazine. In 2012 I would really like to dedicate myself to completing and submitting these articles.

6. Get better at time management. A few months ago, I created a simplified weekly schedule that would provide time for research and writing. So far I have not kept it for even a single week. I really need to get better at this–I am just not very organized when it comes to spending my time productively.

7. Write some magazine articles. I would really like to publish more magazine articles this year than I did in 2011. The popular magazines have room for less advanced descriptions of records and research methodology. I have also been considering writing an article on genealogy (in general) for a non-genealogy magazine. I have not yet decided which magazine would be best.

8. Submit to genealogy writing competitions. There are several writing competitions happening this year. If I can actually write enough entries, I would love to enter them all!

9. Attend the new Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. Registration for GRIP opens in February 2012. The Institute will be held from Sunday, 22 July 2012 through Friday, 27 July 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I am particularly interested in the course “Advanced Research Methods” taught by Thomas W. Jones, Claire Bettag, and Rick Sayre.

10. Find some time to research my family for a change! After all, this is why I got into this mess in the first place.🙂

Happy New Year!

Show ‘N’ Tell: Creating Effective and Attractive Genealogy Presentations

One of my biggest pet peeves, after ten years in the audio-visual industry, is a bad presentation. For years I would sit in bad corporate presentations and bad conference presentations that literally put me to sleep. Genealogy presentations are no better in this aspect. Many a conference have I found myself struggling to keep my head erect.

I have addressed lecturing issues and bad presentations a few times in this blog. See my earlier posts:

I have now published a new book–available in both print and electronic editions–entitled

Show ‘N’ Tell: Creating Effective and Attractive Genealogy Presentations

This new book teaches you how to create a good presentation using PowerPoint (and other similar software). It discusses how to organize your material in the most effective manner, as well as how to design an effective presentation. Once you master these techniques, your audiences will leave your presentations truly impressed, and retain more of the information you provide than ever before!

The book also contains over 20 examples of slides from my own presentations, to help illustrate the design principles.

For more information and to order the book, use the links below:

Print edition – $15.99

Electronic edition – $8.99

Genealogy Crisis Averted!

This morning I left my house at about 9am for an hour’s drive to speak at the Sussex County Genealogical Society in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. As I pulled up in front of the Rehoboth Beach Public Library, where the meetings are held, I reached down to grab my laptop.

Except it wasn’t there. I had somehow, in the course of packing my projector and a box of books for sale into the car, left my laptop sitting in the living room by the front door.

I walked toward the Library, thinking about how I could present a lecture about conducting a “reasonably exhaustive search” without my presentation (and the document images involved with my case study).

Luckily for me, the Library had wifi Internet access, and a member of the Society had a laptop that I could use.

And even more importantly, I regularly save all of my presentations to my DropBox account. I was able to pull up DropBox and download my presentation onto the laptop.

The experience taught me two important lessons that all genealogists, both amateur and professional, can learn from.

1. Always back up everything. This is a lesson I really learned a few years ago when my external hard drive failed, taking several years of client reports and all of my personal research (including hundreds of scanned family photos). I also lost three years of photos of my daughter, who turns six next week. They will be the most sorely missed.

Drives fail. Files get corrupted. Papers are lost, torn, burnt, or soiled. Unless you want to completely redo your work every few years, when it is ultimately all lost to some disaster–physical or digital–back it up. Preferably in multiple formats in multiple locations.

2. Success comes as a result of good preparation. I have often mentioned the importance of focused research. Create a research plan to address your specific problem. Identify records of interest before you go to a repository. The most successful research is conducted when you know what you want to find and where you are going to look for it. Stumbling around aimlessly will never result in successful research.

And if you aren’t prepared, you will never be able to deliver a successful presentation an hour from home…

Make your presentation less annoying

Since 2003 Dave Paradi, author of The Visual Slide Revolution and 102 Tips to Communicate More Effectively Using PowerPoint, has conducted several surveys about what annoys people the most about PowerPoint presentations. On 27 September 2011 he posted “Full Results of the Annoying PowerPoint survey” in his blog, the aptly-titled Dave Paradi’s PowerPoint Blog. You can read his analysis of the full results in his post.

The top five annoyances, with the percentages of the 603 respondents who selected these in their top three, are

The speaker read the slides to us – 73.8%
Full sentences instead of bullet points – 51.6%
The text was so small I couldn’t read it – 48.1%
Slides hard to see because of color choice – 34.0%
Overly complex diagrams or charts – 26.0%[1]

How many of these are you doing in your presentations?

As an audio-visual technician for ten years I can attest to points 1, 3, 4, and 5 personally. So many business presentations had these issues it was embarassing. It was actually while still working in this field that I was inspired to write the article that became the post, “10 Lessons Learned from the ‘Other Side of the Microphone.’

To improve your presentation, try doing the opposite of the above top five most annoying things:

1. Don’t read your slides.

2. Don’t put too much text on your slides.

3. Use large fonts. People in the back still have to be able to see the slides.

4. Use simple, contrasting colors.

5. Simplify any charts or diagrams you use. In most cases, the audience does not need statistics precise to two decimal places on the screen. Put the exact numbers, if necessary, in the handout. Or just round up (or down).

Make your presentations less “annoying,” and people will learn more.

SOURCES:

[1] Dave Paradi, “Full Results of the Annoying PowerPoint survey,” Dave Paradi’s PowerPoint Blog, posted 27 Sep 2011 (http://pptideas.blogspot.com/ : accessed 7 Nov 2011).

My experience at the Pennsylvania Family History Day

Yesterday in Exton, Pennsylvania, the Genealogical Society of Pennyslvania and Ancestry.com presented the Pennsylvania Family History Day. I mentioned this event last week in my post “Tips for a short genealogy road trip.” I was honored to be a part of this event, both as a lecturer and as a vendor. I presented the class “What is a ‘Reasonably Exhaustive Search’?,” one of my personal favorites.

My day started early, at 4:30am. I was out the door and on the road by 5:30am. It was still dark but there was no traffic until I reached Pennsylvania. I arrived at the conference hotel by 7:30am.

As I approached the hotel, the first person I saw, loading up her car in the parking lot, was Lisa Alzo, the popular genealogy author and lecturer. A fellow instructor at the now-defunct GenClass and at the National Institute of Genealogical Studies, I have known Lisa for years through online interaction. This was the first time that we have met in person.

At my vendor table, I set up several of my books for sale, including the Genealogy at a Glance: African American Research (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2011), and all three volumes of the Records of the Slave Claims Commissions, 1864-1867 (self-published, 2010-2011). I also printed out the Table of Contents and the Pennsylvania pages of the Online State Resources for Genealogy e-book (self-published, 2011). The final touch was a small sign that asked, “What’s Your Brickwall?” This sign actually brought the most visitors to my table, as attendees asked for advice with their research problems.

Lunch was great. I sat with Lisa Alzo and my friend Shamele Jordon as we listened to DearMYRTLE’s speech about “Genealogy Jam.” At several points throughout her talk, Ol’ Myrt was driven to tears while reminiscing about older family members, including her parents and grandparents. The entire audience was moved.

Unfortunately, because of my vendor table, I was unable to attend any of the other lectures. I would have loved to hear, for example, Lisa Alzo’s presentation on “Immigrant Cluster Communities,” or Shamele Jordon’s presentation on “Visualizing the Past: Maps and Genealogy,” or Curt Witcher’s presentation “Mining the Mother Lode: Using Periodical Literature for Genealogical Research.” Lou Szucs and Juliana Smith presented a track of four lectures focused on locating information on Ancestry.com, while John T. Humphrey and others presented a track of four lectures on researching in Pennsylvania. But from everything I heard from attendees, all of these presentations were fantastic.

After the conference ended, I had dinner in the hotel restaurant with Donn Devine, CG, CGL, and Curt Witcher, MLA, FUGA.

Curt Witcher, Michael Hait, Donn Devine

Mr. Devine is the Archivist for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, a long-standing member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, a Trustee of the Board for the Certification of Genealogists from 1992 through 2006, a member of the Board of the National Genealogical Society from 1994 through 2002 and current chairman of the NGS Standards Committee. He wrote the chapter on evidence analysis in the Elizabeth Shown Mills-edited Professional Genealogy (the object of the ProGen Study Groups). He also currently serves as the General Counsel for the BCG.

Mr. Witcher is the manager of the Allen County Public Library’s renowned Genealogy Center, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He is on the Board of the Federation of Genealogical Societies and is a member of the Genealogy Committee of the American Library Association. He was coeditor of the Periodical Source Index (PERSI) from 1987 through 2000.

Needless to say, it was an absolutely wonderful meal. We didn’t of course limit our conversation to genealogy, but discussed a number of other topics as well.

Once dinner was finished, I started the long drive home. It was dark again. I arrived home a little after 10pm. It was a long day, but one that I will long treasure.

Survey for upcoming genealogy webinars

Many of you may recall my offering several genealogy webinars this past spring and summer. I am currently in the planning stages of a new round of webinar offerings sometime this winter or next spring.

I would like to enlist your help during the planning stages, so that I can best serve your educational needs.

Please take 2 minutes to answer the following anonymous survey. The survey contains only 6 short multiple-choice questions.

To take the survey, go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/TPKQP5W

Thanks so much for your input!

A Friend of Friends/Follow Friday: “Over Troubled Water” BlogTalkRadio show

I will be a guest on the Internet radio show “Over Troubled Water” on BlogTalkRadio this coming Wednesday, 21 September 2011, at 8pm EDT.

Host Robin Foster and I will discuss my new work Genealogy At A Glance: African American Genealogy Research (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2011) as well as other genealogy subjects.

For a review of the Genealogy At A Glance and other information about the show, read Robin’s blog post “Michael Hait’s African American Genealogy Research At A Glance.”

The “Over Troubled Water” radio show has the following stated goals:

We are coming together to celebrate our heritage and identify what we can do in our families and communities to enjoy the full measure of economic, political, social, cultural, and educational advantage. With the blessings … of technology, all African ancestored descendants can develop an online haven where healing can take place. Let’s recite and relish in our history. Let’s come together to identify the principles that help us to enjoy freedom and happiness. Hopefully, “Over Troubled Water” will be the beginning of that for you. We welcome contributors who will share their history and perspectives that we may all learn and benefit.

You can visit the show’s site on BlogTalkRadio to watch previous episodes “On Demand.”

I am looking forward to this opportunity. I hope to see you there!

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