What makes a good speaker??

21 October 2016

To me, this is a really interesting question…. I have listened to hundreds of speakers over the years in various guises from education training (my previous career) to family and local history in all its facets (my now career and earlier, a hobby/obsession). In fact, many a seminar and conference have been organised by yours truly since the early 2000’s. Initially, in the world of family history, a Directory of Speakers was published by the Federation of Family History Societies which gave names and addresses (sometimes telephone numbers and occasionally email addresses…. shows the era we are talking about!), along with lists of talks available by each person and a rough idea of their charges. To be in the Directory, speakers had to be ‘nominated’ by a Family History Society they had previously spoken to – but how would you go about getting your name out there if you hadn’t spoken at an event before? And what happened if a speaker ‘fell from grace’ or five societies booked someone and said that they were not ‘up to the job’?

A statistic for most conferences, when booking 8+ speakers, is that (in my opinion and experience) you will always have one who doesn’t quite cut the mustard in someone’s opinion. Knowledgeable individuals may not use today’s technology or may have so much information that they need supporting notes – this may irritate some audience members. Others may talk for too long or go off track too much or have too much information on their Powerpoint slides…. the list is endless!

Nowadays, publicity can be (and generally is more) online and via word-of-mouth. Organising the programme for West Middlesex Family History Society Members Meetings in 2017, I have chosen various people who I know (first-hand) are good (in my opinion). Will others share my opinion? And how do I know that those advertising their talks online are ‘a safe bet’ or better?

I am genuinely interested to hear what you all (our readers) consider makes a good speaker? Equally, what turns you off during a lecture/talk?

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