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Making the Most of a Genealogy Conference

We are really looking forward to Who do You Think You Are? Live!,  the Worlds largest family history show opening on April 7th 2016. This year is the show’s 10th year – so it is going to be the biggest and best show yet and it is now approaching fast! We asked the lovely Tami Osmer Mize from ConferenceKeeper.org to give us some helpful tips on how to make the most of the event!

Tami recommends that you ask yourself the following questions: 

1. How are you going to get there?

There is never enough time in a genealogy day, so make sure you don’t waste a minute of it with mundane details, starting with your trip. Plan your transportation to and from the event. If you’re taking public transport, determine which stop will put you closest to the registration area of the venue. If you’re driving yourself, map out your route and know ahead of time what and where your parking options are.

2. Where do you want to spend your time?

Waiting in lines? Looking through schedules? Trying to locate certain classrooms or vendors? Don’t spend your precious conference-day time with tasks that can easily be done well ahead of the event. Take advantage of all of the conference information available on-line, from pre-registration and class schedules, to maps of the venue classrooms and vendor halls.

  • Review, print, and highlight the schedule of events and classes that you’d like to attend. Check to see if any of the particular events you’re considering will be video-taped and available to watch later. If so, consider skipping those and attending another instead.
  • Print out venue floor layouts and highlight the rooms for the events you’re interested in. Consider numbering the locations in order of the classes, so that you know how much time you have in between. You might have time to peruse the vendor hall, or you might have to sprint across the entire convention facility to make the next class!
  • On your floorplans, highlight the restrooms and refreshment/food areas. Do be sure to take some snacks and a water bottle with you, but often the food areas offer a generous seating area if you just want to rest your feet for a few minutes. (Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes!)

3. What do you need to bring?

As little as possible. Pack your conference bag with only absolute necessities. You’ll probably be taking in much more information than you will need to give out, and with all of the walking you’re likely to be doing, you’ll appreciate having as light a load as possible.

  •  If you use electronic devices (i.e. laptop, tablet, phone) put your family tree in an easily accessible digital format such as Twile, rather than lugging around your cumbersome paper research notebooks. Just don’t forget your device chargers!
  • Be sure to bring business cards or name & address labels to be able to easily enter drawings or exchange information with new acquaintances. Reserve a pocket in your conference bag just for collecting cards from other people and businesses as well.
  • Use your phone’s camera as much as possible. Take photos to remember the event, but also to remember interesting products and booths that you find, or new friends that you meet. A picture is worth a thousand words, and often makes it easier to remember just why you thought that vendor was so special. Be considerate in classes, though, and do not photograph the presentation slides unless the speaker gives express permission to do so. Chances are good that they are available in the syllabus, either printed or on-line already anyway.

4. What do you want to discover?

Chances are good that you’ve got a genealogy question you’re looking to answer. Or maybe two. Or maybe twenty. Write them down. Be specific. When asking questions in a class, networking with others, or just meeting new people, be considerate of their time by being as succinct and direct as possible. Consider the bare minimum of information needed when asking a question – your family history is absolutely fascinating… to your family. Genealogists do appreciate others’ stories and are generally always eager to help answer questions, but most anyone starts to nod off when your question about locating your grandmother’s birth certificate starts five generations back.

However, while you may think you’re going to a genealogy conference, workshop or event to gain insights and information for your personal research, I guarantee that your best takeaway will be the people you meet and the new friendships you make. Introduce yourself to everyone: Talk to vendors, the people in line for lunch with you, the person in the seat next to you, the guy in the elevator… everyone! Genealogists are friendly, helpful, kind and sharing folks for the most part. Perhaps it’s because they realize that you might be a new cousin. But whatever the reason, take names, share your contact information, and add folks to your social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and your conference fun and education will continue long after the day is over.

We asked Tami, What are you packing in your own conference bag?

  • I will have electronic devices and chargers, a small tablet, a pen, business cards, snacks, a water bottle, aspirin, ID and money. I guarantee you, though, that by the end of the day it’s crammed full of handouts, giveaways, purchases, and more!

To find the next genealogy event in your area, check the calendar and location pages at ConferenceKeeper.org, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter (#confkeep) for regular updates on genealogy conferences, workshops, seminars, contests and more.

We were delighted to meet Tami (Centre) at RootsTech 2016.
We were delighted to meet Tami (Centre) at RootsTech 2016.

Tami Osmer Mize has been attending genealogy events for the past 10 years, as attendee, presenter, and vendor.

Currently as half of the ConferenceKeeper.org team, she shares her passion for genealogy events with others by continually updating the website and social media outlets with genealogy and family history-related event information. We’d like to thank Tami for her advice!

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