Annual Meeting: Presentation Tips and Tricks

Do You Want Your Audience at SHEAR to Give Its Full Attention to Your Paper?

By Louise W. Knight (

Some advice from the Early American Era:

Quaker women ministers of the 1830s were experienced public speakers. Here is the advice one of them gave to Sarah Grimke:

“There is something of a hurried appearance in thy manner. I do believe that if thou couldst speak more slowly and divide thy sentences and passages by suitable pauses, it will add greatly to the weight and dignity of communication.” –Abigail Barker to Sarah Grimke, December 8, 1835, Weld-Grimke Papersments Library, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor


Frederick Douglass, one of the most successful public speakers of his age, received his first lessons in delivery by reading the highly popular book, The Columbian Orator, by Caleb Bingham. In his introduction, Bingham suggests:

“That some sentences ought to be pronounced faster than others is very manifest. … But to hurry on in a precipitate manner without pausing, till stopped for want of breath, is certainly a very great fault. This destroys not only the necessary distinction between sentence and sentence, but likewise between the several words of the same sentence; by which means all the grace of speaking is lost, and in a great measure, the advantage of hearing.”

At the same time, going too slow is also not good:

“It is a fault to speak too slow. This seems to argue a heaviness in the speaker. And as he appears to cool himself, he can never expect to warm his hearers, and excite their affections. When not only every word but every syllable is drawn out to too great a length, the ideas do not come fast enough to keep up the attention without much uneasiness.”

Caleb Bingham, “Introduction,” The Columbian Orator (Boston, 1797, reprint 1832), 17. For a more recent, edited edition, see David W. Blight (ed. and new intro.), Caleb Bingham, The Columbian Orator: Containing a Variety of Original and Selected Pieces together with Rules, Which are Calculated to Improve Youth and Others, in the Ornamental and Useful Art of Eloquence (Bicentennial Edition, New York: New York University Press, 1998).


Why Do We Rush?

Caleb Bingham had some theories about why we rush.  He argues that because we are anxious about public speaking, we feel “pain till it is over.” This “puts the speaker into a hurry of mind, which incapacitates him from governing his voice, and keeping it under that due regulation which perhaps he proposed to himself before he began to speak.”

Other reasons, not anticipated by Bingham, are that either:

  1. We never practiced reading our paper at a deliberate pace to find out if its length fit within the panel’s time restrictions, possibly because we did not want to know, since it would mean we would have to shorten it, an idea too painful to contemplate;


  1. We practiced reading our paper at a deliberate pace, discovered the length did not fit within the panel’s time restrictions, and rather than shorten it, an idea too painful to contemplate, decided we would just read it faster.


Special Challenges, with Solutions Suggested by Irene Brown

Does your paper involve foreign languages? Does your paper involve unfamiliar vocabulary or names? Does your presentation necessitate images not enough to warrant a PowerPoint presentation?  Consider distributing photocopied pages to aid the audience in tracking the new content.


Annual Meeting Update and Information

A message from the SHEAR National Conference Coordinator, Robyn Lily Davis:

Dear SHEARites,

Less than 2 days until our 40th annual meeting opens in Cleveland and I have a few updates and reminders to share with you.



  • Pre-registration is now closed. You may register on-site but please remember that we can accept only cash or checks, no credit cards, and that there is an on-site supplemental fee of $30.  Registration opens Thursday, 5:00 to 7:30 pm in the conference hotel and continues on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.


  • Those going on the pre-conference tour of Kirtland Temple should meet the bus in front of the hotel on West Mall Drive.
  • All the bus tours will depart from West Mall Drive, in front of the hotel.
  • Walking Tour participants should gather in the hotel lobby.
    • If you signed up for both the Museum of Art guided tour and the walking tour of historic Cleveland, you will need to make a choice – they both start at 6pm on Friday. Email me with your plans once you decide.


  • The Cleveland Grays Armory Museum [] extends a warm welcome to SHEARites and invites them to stop in at 1234 Bolivar Road to learn more about Cleveland’s early peace officers and first line of defense against Canadian invasion. The Armory will also be open on Friday evening for free lecture on WWI posters.  A tour of the armory can be arranged by emailing the Education Director Annemarie Roeder at


  • Have you been active in SHEAR since 1990? Did you remember to sign up for the Sunday’s Founders’ Breakfast?  You can still do so at the registration desk when you arrive.


  • Check-in at the overflow Renaissance is 4:00 p.m. The hotel will happily hold your luggage if you arrive early and your room is not yet ready.
  • The Marriott at Key Center is undergoing renovations that are taking longer than planned. Most significant for our meeting, two of the elevators will be out of order and the down escalator from our meeting space to the main lobby is undergoing repair.  The up escalator is working and there are stairs nearby.  However, please expect some delays at peak times and please allow a little extra transit time getting to the 2nd floor in the morning.  The Marriott will have a complimentary all-day coffee and tea service available to conference-goers in our meeting space so come down early for that first cup of jolt.


I send you traveling mercies and I look forward to seeing you in Cleveland later this week.  If you need anything before then, please email me at or call or text my mobile, 405/409-5909.


Warmest regards,

Robyn Lily Davis

SHEAR National Conference Coordinator

In Memoriam: Remembering and Celebrating Colleagues at the SHEAR

An announcement from Daniel Mandell on behalf of the SHEAR Anti-Temperance League:

You may have heard of the SHEAR Anti-Temperance League, which was begun years ago by the esteemed Horace Mann and continues its tradition of meeting one evening during the annual meeting at a local tavern.  This year in Cleveland the League will begin at its gathering a new tradition, to commemorate comrades who have died during the past year.  SHEAR has no forum for that purpose, and the League’s gathering seems the proper informal setting.  This year the League will gather at the Marriot bar, aka SHEAR Central, starting about 8 pm, and at 9, we’ll gather on the other (quieter) side of the lobby, where we can talk, hear (!), and remember our colleagues. No RSVP is needed, nor any password — although if there were a password, it would probably be “Horace Sent Me.”

Please contact Daniel Mandell, either through the Anti-Temperance League Facebook page or via, with the name(s) of any colleague(s) you wish to remember.