Thoughts on In-Person Conferences
Attendance was down a bit at this year's NGS Conference, but location was probably the biggest factor. Fewer persons have Florida ancestry than areas more central to the country. The distance was great for most persons who did not want to fly. Major repositories in the area were not plentiful unless you were fortunate enough to have ancestors in that immediate area.
Cost may have been a factor as well. The hotel prices and luncheons/banquet seemed slightly higher than some in the past, but not that much higher. Some of us went to Publix, grabbed a loaf of bread, some sandwich stuff, and ate lunch in our own rooms.
I suspect conflicts with college and university graduations were another factor for many travelling from a distance with family members graduating. I know it is difficult for me to attend both NGS and FGS because of the timing, but I do try to attend at least one if at all possible. It's generally not a problem if I'm selected to speak or if I'm involved in some other activity/event at the conference.
I enjoyed the conference tremendously. I attended lectures on new-to-me topics. I enjoyed spending time with fellow genealogists. I definitely plan to attend next year's conference in Raleigh. I'm considering FGS in Pittsburgh if logistics and budget work out. I would also like to attend IGHR next year since the date change means it will no longer conflict with a work-related conference.
Webinars are nice, but it's quite easy to go into webinar overload. I'm more selective of the ones I attend than I used to be. They are not a substitute for in-person interaction that occurs at conferences.
Each conference or event has its own culture. Some people are comfortable with all of them; some are comfortable only with the one that fits their own style best. I encourage you to attend conferences, whether local, regional, or national!