Public Speaking for Genealogists

Instructor: Jean Wilcox Hibben, PhD, MA
Dates offered: Fridays, Sept 15 & 29, Oct 13 & 27
Time: 3:00-6:00 pm PT, 6:00-9:00 pm ET
Cost: $300
Registration: 17-23 August 2023

This course is for genealogists wanting to move from helping others for little or no monetary reward to presenting what they know to an audience, and to assist those already doing presentations for seminars and societies to polishing their lecturing skills. Whether in person or online, public speaking competence helps the presenter sound and feel credible. Learn from a retired professor who taught the course in community colleges for 13 years, and in the public sector for another 25 or more.

Class sessions will be a combination of instructor lectures, class discussions about observations and experiences, and student presentations of varying lengths.

Student goals are to:

  • Learn ways to feel more confident when addressing an audience (in-person or online)
  • Create innovative approaches to “old” topics
  • Understand different presentation structures
  • Become secure in knowing effective methods of handling different forms of lecturer-listener/participant interactions (positive and negative)
  • Determine, quickly, what options are available when the unexpected happens
  • Apply instructor and peer feedback to public speaking performance
  • Provide appropriate peer feedback to others
  • Recognize different learning styles of those attending the presentations


While there are no specific subscription websites or organization memberships required for this course, certain memberships are strongly recommended: the Genealogical Speakers Guild (and its Facebook page) and the Association of Professional Genealogists, to begin with. Consider, too, the Facebook group 2020 Genealogy Speakers (don’t be fooled by “2020”). Additional suggestions may come up as we work through the topics here, along with videos and webinar suggestions, as appropriate.

Course assignments:

There are two main types of assignments associated with this course:

  1. Student-presented “lectures,” with preliminary discussions on their preparation
  2. Attendance of in-person and virtual presentations, with observations discussed in class sessions

Session 1 – Why and How

  • Genealogist-presenters (observations and perceptions)
    o What types of behaviors do you wish to avoid and emulate?
    o How can you best develop your personal mission statement and niche
  • Various elements of a given speaking assignment
    o Handling the unexpected – presentation topics, timing, programs, etc.
    o Mastering technology (a constant task)
    o Recognizing the different types of learners and how to implement that information in a presentation
  • Discussion about the assignments for the next three sessions
  • Impromptu addresses, as time allows

Session 2 –Structure, Protocol, Protecting the Voice, & Timing

  • Discovery Discussions on the observation findings from assignments
  • Lectures
    o Basics of presentation purpose, topic narrowing, titles selection, and speech structure
    o The importance and role of timing in lecture preparation
    o Taking care of the voice
  • Impromptu mini-speeches, as time allows
  • Discussion of next session assignments

Session 3 – Ethics, Evaluating Constructively, Delivery, Syllabus/Handout, & Nerves

  • Discovery Discussions about findings from assignments
    o Ethics for speakers
    o Evaluating speakers: We all do it! But let’s do it appropriately (including the evaluation form we will be using in session 4)
    o Public speaking delivery (dos and don’ts)
  • Lectures
    o Managing performance anxiety, including practical solutions
    o PowerPoint dos, don’ts, and more
    o Getting “gigs” (including the different types)
    o Syllabus/handout suggestions
  • Discussion about the 4 th session
    o Concerns and questions about upcoming student lectures

Session 4 – Business Minutiae & Student Presentations

    o Discussion of the experience
  • Lectures with Q/A: last, but important, topics and reminders
    o Your relationship and networking with other genealogy lecturers
    o Money matters
    o Advertising
    o Organization of bookings, submitting to conferences, and business details