Sunday, August 12, 2007

Conference Advice

I love genealogical conferences. The national conference that I attend most often is National Genealogical Society's Conference in the States. The main reason for this is because it usually works with my college professor's schedule best. The conferences usually begin on Wednesday and run through Saturday. There are preconferences available on Tuesday. During each time slot, attendees have a choice of about seven or eight presentations. Over the years, I've learned which speakers I really enjoy hearing and which are a "waste of time."

Now I offer some Advice for Conference Attendees:

If at all possible, stay in the hotel attached to the convention center. [In Pittsburgh, the distance between the hotel where I stayed at the convention center certainly seemed much further than advertised.]

Update: This looks like something I'd enjoy doing.

Do your research on food ahead of time or ask the locals. [I ate best in Nashville where I was most familiar with the location having lived there at one time and having attended many conferences at that convention center. I also ate well in Boston where I'd spent a lot of time ahead of the conference researching what was available and good.]

Take breaks when you need them. [Just because there is a session offered five or six times a day doesn't mean you have to attend them all. I usually pick a session to attend each time slot but if I am getting tired, I try to decide which upcoming session I'm least excited about attending and skip it.]

If you plan to spend a lot of time in the exhibit hall, take an extra suitcase with you. [You'll need it to lug back all of those purchases you just can't live without.]

Volunteer. [It's a great way to meet others. I usually volunteer for the Association of Professional Genealogists' booth. It also keeps me away (at least for an hour or two) from the exhibits where I spend more money than I need to spend!]

Meet your neighbors. [When you go into a session, strike up a conversation with the person next to you. You might just find you are cousins. I've actually done this a couple of times. I've also met persons with whom I've corresponded and persons who reside near me.]

Plan your day the night before. [You'll be less stressed if you make some decisions about what you intend to attend the night before. If you are attending with friends and are both having trouble deciding which sessions to attend, plan together. You may be able to cover two sessions that you are both interested in attending at the same time slot. You can then compare notes that evening.]

The BCG Skillbuilding Track is always good. [If you are having trouble making a selection from the choices at a time slot, you'll never go wrong by selecting this one.]

If you plan to do research at a local facility, remember everyone else is doing the same thing. [In Richmond, the Library of Virginia limited microfilm machine use to one hour at a time. If the facility is open evening hours during the week, it will be crowded. You won't get nearly as much research done as you plan with a packed house. You'll get more accomplished at a research facility a little more distant from the conference site before or after conference than you will at one near the location.]

Be a tourist. [Find what the city has to offer and visit some interesting things. I just touched a tip of what's available in Boston last fall, but I certainly have a much better idea of some things I want to see when I head back to Boston for a library conference next summer. I plan to spend part of each day researching and part of each day sightseeing.]

If you didn't enjoy a speaker on one topic, you might still enjoy them on others. [At the very first national conference I attended, I heard one speaker that really seemed to know very little about her topic as far as I was concerned. I decided that I'd never attend another session by this person. Then at a conference a couple of years later, I heard some people talking about what a wonderful presentation they'd just attended. It turned out this was the same speaker on a different topic. I tried her session on that topic at another conference later and decided that I might try other presentations by her. I made three presentations at FGS in Boston. The first session went poorly by my estimation. My computer had overheated. I had to call a friend to bring her computer so I could do my session. I had a lot to cover. I was feeling rushed and was a little nervous (even though I teach classes five days a week). I sped through my presentation. The other two went much better in my estimation. I was more relaxed and was able to engage the listener more because I was relaxed. By the way, I don't recommend purchasing the recordings of these sessions from because two rely heavily on captured screen shots, and the other was more or less a demonstration of using a couple of software packages. This third one was one where I filled in at almost the last minute. The session had been advertised, and the presenter was unable to attend. I now wonder if my experience with the presenter who wasn't very knowledgeable on a topic might have been a result of having been called upon late to fill in for something that wasn't in her area of expertise.]

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