Most family history researchers at some stage take the plunge and attend a genealogy conference or Expo. For some it might be one in your local area, for others it might be a national event in your country. While others go to the big international ones.
Unlock The Past’s Australian History & Genealogy Expo is just a couple of weeks away, RootsTech is on in February next year, Who Do You Think You Are? Live in on next April, and Congress is is a couple of years away in 2018. Of course there are plenty of other genealogy events in between at a more local level, but these are the bigger name ones.
Having attended many genealogy events over the years, I thought I’d share a few tips, so those who are new to the genealogy conference scene can make the most of it.
1. Wear comfortable shoes – it might sound silly, but you’ll thank me.
2. Wear layers – from experience it can be hot outside, but with the a/c on rooms where talks are held it can be freezing. Or alternatively it can be freezing outside, but hot inside – particularly in the exhibitor hall, so layers are the way to go.
3. Notebook – if you’re planning on attending talks, bring a notebook. You can jot down notes of the talk if you need, or any other things you come across – such as people you meet, or contacts you want to follow up! Generally you don’t need to note everything in the talks, as speakers offer handouts which you can download later.
4. Have your tree handy – you may have your tree on an app on your tablet or smartphone, or on a program on your laptop. Any of these are fine, or even have part of it printed out that you can carry with you, and have as reference if needed. You really never know who you’ll meet that might be connected. I’ve seen it happen many times over the years.
5. Brickwalls – if you have a brickwall that you’re stuck on, bring details (including where you’ve already looked). Unlock the Past has the “Research Help Zone”, and Who Do You Think You? Live live has “Ask The Experts”, these are one-on-one session with experts to try and help you with your brickwall. The more prepared you are with this the better.
6. Don’t try to go to “every” talk – if you do this you’ll totally suffer from brain drain, and once you hit that point nothing will go in! I know, I’ve been there. So take the time to look over the program. Do it in advance if you can. Unlock the Past have their Expo Program up now which you can download, so that will give you some time to plan ahead.
7. Have cash and credit card – I mention this as not every vendor accepts credit card, so make sure you have some cash with you.
8. Put your phone on silent – this is just a courtesy one. If you’re attending talks, please put your phone on silent. People are there to hear the speaker, not your phone.
9. No recording or photos of talks – this is a standard practice now at events. While the speakers are generally happy for one photo prior to or after the talk (generally for social media purposes), taking photos during, particularly of the slides is a big no-no, as is the recording of the talk itself.
10. Food and drink – while most events do have food available onsite for you to buy, it’s also handy to carry a bottle of water and some snacks with you, because if the event is an all day one, or even several days, you will need the sustenance.
11. Get your seat early – if there is a particular talk you REALLY want to go to, get there early (as long as there isn’t already a talk on in that room). There are many popular speaker who are known to fill rooms before they start. But also if there early, please don’t sit on the end seat which then means everyone has to squeeze past you to get to one further down – again just courtesy.
12. Bring a bag or backpack – most conferences give you a bag as part of the registration kit, but it’s always handy ‘just-in-case’ to bring your own. Apart from having a bag to carry your own things in (notepad, ipad, laptop, drink bottle, pens etc), you never know what else you might find to buy.
13. Bring business cards – some call them business cards some call them contact cards, either way they are useful for you to be able to hand out to those you might meet. Now as a newbie going to a genealogy conference you might wonder why you would need them … putting it simply “you never know” who’ll you’ll meet. Many I’ve seen simply have their name, email, maybe their blog if they blog, and the surnames they are researching! Smart idea isn’t it.
ENJOY THE VIBE. When you’re together with a whole bunch of people who have the same interest/obsession as you, who are so enthused about it, there is a vibe. And unless you’ve been to a genie conference it’s hard to describe the energy and vibe that you get from it. But trust me, there’s nothing like it, so enjoy it.
So that covers the basics. And I hope if you are attending any genealogy conference soon, that this will be of help to you. And I wish you all the best for your continued research.