Monday, May 12, 2014

A Speaker's Perspecitve on the NGS Conference

I decided to take a little different approach to blogging about the NGS conference, as I am one of the few bloggers who was presenting at the conference. I thought some of you would like to see the perspective from the other side of the podium.

In March 2013 I answered the Call for Papers from the National Genealogical Society and proposed a presentation on "Tract Books: Master Index to the Federal Land Records." Tract books are some of my favorite records, and now that FamilySearch has digitized many of them they are more accessible to researchers.

In August 2013 I heard that NGS had selected my proposal to speak on tract books (but not the other three topics I had submitted). I worked over the next few months to prepare four pages of material on the subject for the syllabus. My handout focused on the details of using tract books and referenced online resources for background information on federal land records and the rectangular survey system. I included this background information in my presentation as it is necessary to understand the organization of the tract books and the records they lead to. I wanted attendees to know how useful these records can be, and what genealogical gems they may contain.

I had my PowerPoint presentation prepared before I arrived at the NGS conference. This allowed me to spend most of the week  attending sessions, networking with colleagues and friends, and hosting a ProGen Study Group gathering. I attended Elizabeth Shown Mills session on "Using Evidence Creatively: Spotting Clues in Run-of-the-Mill Records" and was excited to see that she used tract books in two of her three case studies. It was great advertising for my topic.

The morning of my presentation I decided to run through it in my hotel room so it would be fresh in my mind. The speaker just before me said he had trouble with the cable provided to connect the laptop to the projector. I was grateful that it worked for me. I felt like the presentation went well. I spoke a little fast, but I was trying to share as much information as possible in  55 minutes. I will listen to the recording later to see  how I can improve my speaking skills. I appreciate those who attended my presentation to learn about these records.

There was a real camaraderie between the speakers. We encouraged each other before our presentations, and then asked each other how our presentations went afterward.  I received a phone call from one colleague whose projector had broken right before his presentation. I was happy to loan him mine, and got my exercise as I ran to my hotel room to get it just minutes before he was to begin. It is this type of support that I have felt in the genealogy community. I know if there had been a problem with my projector or computer that there were several friends I could have called upon for assistance.

Each speaker works very hard to put together presentations to educate others in the genealogical community. I appreciate each of them, and the conference chairmen, for making the NGS conference such a wonderful educational opportunity.


  1. Nice write up Angela! Thanks for the backstage perspective. I'm thrilled they picked you for at least one presentation. I'm sure with that exposure and experience, many more will follow.

  2. I just did a blog post entitled "Genealogists as Speakers: Toastmasters" (www.theartofgenealogy), where I discuss many of the concerns you talk about in this post.
    Congratulations on your presentation. I'm glad you were also able to attend many of the presentations.