Avoid Too Many Topics Too Little Time

Have you ever been to a meeting with a limited amount of time but the speaker was given far too many topics to include in that time period? How successful are these meetings, seminars, or classes? If you answered, not very, you would be right. Topics presented at a rapid pace without much time for depth isn't necessarily worth the time someone puts into creating or attending the presentation.

I recently attended a local conference where the speaker was asked to talk about Ancestry.com. That's a pretty broad topic. In the class, the knowledgeable instructor attempted to cover, getting familiar with the different tabs offered on Ancestry's menu, genealogy proof, a third topic and then the newest topic of LDS Access to Ancestry.com. All of these topics can stand alone. All of these topics crammed into one 45 minute class is just not well done, no matter how amazing the teacher. By the way, I really felt sorry for this presenter. He did a great job with this impossible task.


By breaking up topics into small chunks, more depth can be covered and class interaction with the instructor can happen. When participants engage in their learning, they retain more.

When a conference wants to offer a class, the planners would do well to provide detailed and limited scope of what topics the class should cover. The presenter would do well to take the scope and cover as much as the recommendations as possible without too much that learning and discussion is impeded. After crafting your class, provide conference planners with an accurate description of the topics covered and the skill set needed prior to attended the class.

This request probably only applies to conferences where no "Call for Papers" takes place; however, the tips do apply to planner who are selecting which proposed presentation will be the most effective and well received.

Let us recognize that many local family history conferences are hosted by volunteers. Additionally, many presenters are volunteers themselves. Should you find yourself having to plan a conference, many topics that take a conference from good to great aren't discussed. Hopefully, this piece and others I share will help you prepare for a great conference.

By the way, this is applicable to situations beyond a family history conference. 

6 comments :

  1. That's too bad. It sounds like the planners of this conference didn't have the right skills for planning. It's one thing to be responsible enough to reserve a room and have a full coffee pot ready; it's a totally different thing to understand human behavior and learning styles, the whole psychology of it all.

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    1. Wendy, thanks for supporting my comments. I aim to give advice to conference planners to improve the quality of programs available. There are very few planning resources and places for recommendations. Overall the conference I attended was well run and I'll keep attending them as I'm able.

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  2. And by the way, I read your interview at GeneaBloggers. I'm so glad Jana featured you and your helpful blog.

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    1. Thanks Wendy! I hope others find my blog as helpful as you do.

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  3. When I read about a class on a 'broad' topic I have trouble deciding what level of researcher it would benefit. Seeing a class about Ancestry, for example, would make me wonder if it is for beginners. However, a class about genealogy proof sounds more advanced. A narrowing of the topic helps people decide if the class is for them.

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    1. Great food for thought. I think it's important for presenters to write descriptions for the classes that help attendees know what their class will be about.

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