Saturday, March 26, 2011


This morning I headed to a neighboring town to attend a genealogy society meeting. I had promised myself I would never again attend a meeting of this particular society, but I wanted to hear the speaker they had lined up for this meeting. She spoke at the Smithville genealogy society a couple of weeks ago, but I had been caught up in an unrelenting workload and had been too tired at the time to drag myself out of bed and make the short 11 mile drive.

So, instead, I dragged myself out of bed this morning and drove 30 miles. And I knew when I left the house that I would probably enjoy the speaker but hate the meeting. And so it went.

The two groups are an interesting study in contrast. I regularly attend the meeting in Smithville and thoroughly enjoy myself. The president is a likeable lady who keeps the meeting on track, gets us out in a reasonable amount of time and makes a point to welcome newcomers and invite them to join the e-mail notification list. There are other officers who mingle and make you feel welcome. The folks who attend are polite and respectful and listen attentively to the speaker. Many of them are fellow DAR and DRT members and they know how to conduct themselves at these kind of events.

Then there is the group whose meeting I attended today. No one bothers to speak to a newcomer to make them feel welcome. There is very little structure to the meeting and it can drag on and on and on. But the thing that annoys me the most is a basic lack of respect shown the speaker. People will chat just loud enough to distract the audience. At frequent points in the presentation, various folks will feel compelled to share their own expertise on the subject, usually on a point that the speaker has not yet had a chance to cover. There is a continual popping up and exiting through a noisy door to the restroom area.

I remember when we first moved to Smiley how impressed my father was with the congregation during the delivery of his sermons. He remarked that he had never had a congregation that was so focused. They paid attention. They did not fidget or talk to each other while the preacher was speaking. He said it was almost unsettling the respectful attention they gave him while he spoke. Sitting still and paying attention is what we owe someone who is giving us their time and sharing their knowledge.

Folks today have gotten so used to blurting out their feelings anytime and anywhere - at bursts of 140 characters a pop - that they seem to have lost the point of going to presentations given by persons with specialized knowledge. The idea is to learn, not to have a free-for-all exchange of information. Most speakers offer a period of time at the end of their talk for questions and comments. It would be nice if people would wait for that opportunity to share ideas. They might find that the speaker is going to cover a particular point and there is no need to break into the presentation to "remind" or "educate" the speaker and thereby interrupt the speaker's train of thought.

This very issue is why I no longer attend genealogy seminars. There was a time when I looked forward to a day to spend with a group of folks who were interested in the same hobby, but it seems like nowadays there are those know-it-alls in the audience who just can't keep from showing off how much they know. The thing is, the ones who are so intent on sharing their knowledge are generally the ones who know the least about genealogy.

So, at long last the speaker finished her presentation despite all the help she had received along the way, and the meeting came to enough of a halt that I was able to slink out the side door and make my escape. What should have been a 90-minute meeting had dragged to a stuttering halt in 2-1/2 hours. I was tired and hungry and I headed back to Smithville where I indulged in a wonderful plate of nachos at Pocket's Grill before returning home.

I sincerely hope I get to hear this particular speaker again. She knows a lot about cemeteries and tombstone art and the burial practices of various cultures. I paid attention and I heard her presentation. I wonder if anybody else there did?


1 comment:

Marianna said...

I hope you have the opportunity to tell the speaker how much you appreciated her coming to talk. Maybe you can see if she could talk to you on a one-to-one basis and tell her you apologize for the rudeness of the other members. Those ladies were just plain rude and that, in my opinion, is inexcusable.