How much information is too much?

Posted By on July 29, 2011

The past few months have been a whirlwind of events and that pesky real life getting in the way.  I actually spent Niagara in resting mode (I needed a vacation to just sit and enjoy being in the 18th Century), but I’ve also done more first person interpretation at Historic Londontown in the weeks missing here, and I’ve just returned from Fort La Presentation in Ogdensburg, NY.

This year at Ogdensburg, I lectured on 18th Century medicine.  Anyone who has seen my setup, read my blog, or had a conversation with me about this topic knows that I can speak at length, and then some, but for this engagement I had a 45 minute interval in which to impart my knowledge in.  So what was important to discuss?  What information did I want them to take away from the presentation?  How much information is too much information?  Should I focus on the French perspective, or do British as well?  Do I use props? So many questions to overthink!

Lecturing seems different than just talking to a bunch of students for 25 minutes, with all of my tools in front of me.  I felt as if I had to impart as much generalized information instead of the specifics on what this tool did and what that tool did, or how that medicine was used for x,y, and z.  I had to show the different types of caregivers, and their educations, backgrounds, etc.  And even as we worked on an outline during the drive up, there was still so much information that I was continuing to have to cut out of my presentation.

When you’re passionate about a topic, it seems that there is endless stores of information you want to disseminate to the public, to attempt to make them as passionate as you.  When there are half truths and plain out fabricated facts as well, you want to make sure to give people the right information.  And you also want to make it interesting so that the audience isn’t falling asleep.  So you have to pick and choose wisely.  Stick with the basics and add little gems of information when you can so that you make people perk up, and make their eyes get wide.  I kept using cues from one lady in my audience who’s eyebrows would raise when I would state a new fact that she didn’t really know about medicine, which was extremely encouraging for me.

In the end, my talk ended up being about 40 minutes out of 45.  I only added a few props, and I did my best to stick to the outline, though I did stray once or twice.  I received excellent feedback, from both the individuals at my presentation and the organizers.  So I suppose I had just enough information to pass on! Hurrah!

Me at my presentation

Me about to start the presentation, I think. Many thanks to Beth C for the picture!




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