RootsTech 2017 was a wonderful experience; however, I am troubled by evidence of a creeping change of incivility there and at every conference. What was infrequent once is now commonplace.
Incivility is not shown among the conference goers who politely maneuver the halls, stairways, and crowded session rooms, and it is not normally displayed by the speakers. However, in nearly every presentation I attended appeared one or more of the following four common circumstances of incivility.
The first incivility impulsively interrupts the speaker during the presentation. The Interrupter deems that the action of interrupting is more important than the speaker’s time or the audience’s desire. The Interrupter’s greatest damage may be inculcating inexperienced genealogists that this behavior is acceptable.
The second incivility builds on the first: the interrupter becomes a venter. The Venter not only detracts but steals precious moments, maybe minutes, to vent his or her passions about a related (or unrelated topic) in the field. The polite speaker waits for a moment to move on, the polite audience is left waiting for the Venter’s passion to implode, while the Venter is left free to control all but himself.
The third incivility is far more insidious; it creates doubt without the time to amend or correct. This incivility is enacted by the Corrector. The Corrector will publicly disagree with the speaker, perhaps even citing another authority, to point out a flaw in the presentation or to argue with a comment. With limited time—even desire—the presenter moves on leaving the Corrector to feel a sense of victory and identity.
The last incivility is a rampant action. The Snapper takes screenshots uninvited, unwarranted, and repetitively. Imagine, then, the Snapper, raising the device, blocking the view of those behind him. Despite the fact that no permission has been given and that the speaker is looking annoyed, the Snapper plows on. Despite the fact that the entire Power Point presentation is included as an attachment. And despite that fact that his or her screen becomes the shortest endpoint to those sitting behind him or her…again and again.
As a conference goer and as a fledgling speaker, I emplore all speakers to consider doing what Angela McGhie did so beautifully at RootsTech 2017. She took 1 minute before the presentation began and addressed most politely these issues; she is the only speaker I attended to prevent these presentation problems.
Let the speakers educate the attenders; let the attenders become educated; let the common circumstances of incivilities stop now. Will we not all be the better for it?