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. 

Annual Meeting Update and Information

A Message From Our SHEAR National Conference Coordinator, Robyn Davis:

Dear SHEARites,

Only three weeks until we meet in Cleveland for our 40th annual conference! If you have pre-registered, thank you. If you haven’t, please pre-register today by clicking here. Pre-registration closes next week on 5 July, so if you miss the window you will have to register on-site using cash or a check only and pay a $30 supplement. If you are a graduate student presenting at the conference, your registration is free. However, you must still register.

On-site conference registration is open from 5:00 to 7:30 pm on Thursday 19 July at the registration desk in the conference hotel, and continues until Sunday.

I send you traveling mercies and I look forwarding to seeing you in Cleveland next month. If you need anything before then, please email me at

Robyn Lily Davis
SHEAR National Conference Coordinator

PS I have two shared grad rooms left at the Marriott. $75 per night. Open to anyone but first come first served. Email me.



A New Look at Old Hickory

In June 1820, several dozen legislators gathered in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, then the state capital, for an emergency session. Their goal was “Relief”: legislative action to protect Tennessee households from economic crisis. The previous year, as the Panic of 1819 first hit, these same representatives had passed a law to prevent creditors from suing debtors. Now they wanted to charter a “Bank of the People,” increasing the money supply and reducing the social power of the merchants and cotton gin owners who normally controlled credit. They did so in the name of the people’s sovereignty.

But Andrew Jackson was (literally) in their way. Apparently in his Major General’s uniform, the Hero of New Orleans told those entering the state house that the proposed bank would violate the federal and state constitutions to which they had sworn fealty. Anyone who voted for it would thus be perjuring themselves, Jackson warned. That summer he also wrote an anti-Relief manifesto on behalf of “enterprising commercial adventurers” while quietly collaborating with Tennessee’s established bankers to sink the new experiment in economic democracy.

Eight years later, he won the White House by promising to restore the people’s sovereignty—to avenge them not only against foreign powers and domestic threats but also against corrupt politicians and moneyed interests.

Understanding how Jackson could take such positions without any sense of contradiction requires us to look closely at where he came from, in every sense of that loaded phrase. More to the point, we need to scrutinize his life and career before he became a legend at the Battle of New Orleans—and before he and his trusted allies began to shape and deploy that legend during the presidential campaigns of 1824 and 1828.

As of 1820, everyone knew that “the Hero” had a touchy sense of honor. Many people were aware of his youthful traumas. His economic and legal ideas were far more mysterious, except perhaps for the Tennessee lawmakers who favored stay laws and public banks.  And yet Jackson had acquired a distinct sense of commercial “justice” and the rule of law during his ascent from borderlands orphan to territorial official.  As a lawyer, judge, and confidante of Federalist elites, Jackson was a frontier version of Alexander Hamilton, one with fewer qualms about dueling and none about slavery.

Of course, the mid-Tennessee colony where Jackson came of political age was not just any frontier. During the early 1790s it was a uniquely terrifying place, besieged by Cherokee and Creek war parties and abandoned by the federal government. Both Jackson and his wife, Rachel, felt betrayed by the bloodless politicians in Philadelphia and swore revenge in the name of God’s ultimate sovereignty. They got some in 1794, when white militias waged off-the-record attacks against the “savage nations” to the south and east. But most of the credit went to state-level leaders who Jackson despised.

For most of his thirties (1797-1807), this violent man was controversial in mid-Tennessee and obscure everywhere else. He was no longer a Federalist but not really a Jeffersonian. In the wake of the Burr Conspiracy, the Sage of Monticello wrote a brief and stern letter to the Tennessee upstart, reminding Jackson that the day of the frontier avenger was over.

A new crisis with Britain and the ensuing wars of 1811-1818 changed everything. Against the hated empire and its native and black proxies, white Americans came to see their country as a kind of frontier household. They spoke of their “unexampled forbearance” against the monsters all around and lionized Andrew Jackson as the man who finally saved them from their nightmares.

This Jacksonian nation crystallized in early 1819, when Congress investigated the General’s invasion of Spanish and Seminole Florida. His supporters did not so much reject international law as appropriate it, insisting that the United States was the only innocent nation on Earth, the one country that could justly inflict rather than obey the law. Jackson was “the people’s great avenger,” the man “appointed by Heaven to tread the wine press of Almighty wrath.”

Later that year, the Panic hit, moving many thousands of people—especially in the southern and western regions were Jackson was most popular—to call for another kind of popular sovereignty against economic forces and international norms. They assumed that Jackson was on their side. This makes his rise to the White House and subsequent crusades against native peoples and national bankers all the more significant to larger narratives of capitalism and democracy in the United States.

Jason M. Opal is an associate professor of history at McGill University. He has authored Beyond the Farm: National Ambitions in Rural New England and edited Common Sense and Other Writings by Thomas Paine. His forthcoming book on Old Hickory is entitled Avenging the People: Andrew Jackson, the Rule of Law, and the American Nation.