I have to say that I have attended only one genealogy conference: last year's Atlanta Family History Expo. I had a lot of fun and look forward to attending more conferences and expos in the future. So what am I looking for?
What Pulls Me In
- Advance Information - I'm the type of person who doesn't like to be in a situation where I don't know the details. For an event like this, I want advanced information on the venue, the classes, the vendors, the events, etc. Also, last minute changes should be avoided at all costs.
- Location - I'm not much of a traveler, I live in Georgia and have never been further north than Asheville, NC and further west than Mobile, AL. My travel options are limited by finances and work schedules. A Conference needs to be offered in the local region for me to attend.
- Price - I understand that these events cost a lot of money to put together, but after my $150 for ancestry.com, $60 for genealogybank, $25 a piece for death certificates, $100 for DNA tests... honestly, conferences do come in a little lower on the list for me. I would like to see a two day event come in at or under $100. And then there's still a hotel bill... Price alone kept me from attending the nearby NGS Conference - way too expensive. It would be great to see block rates available - and not just at the expensive hotels.
- Content - I think that content should be tailored to the attendees, but still offer variety. If you're in the south, recruit speaker who specialize in the south or on locations of historic southern migration. At the same time, not all classes should focus on the same subjects. Classes should cover diverse subjects on basic research strategies through to the newest technology.
- Vendors - Lots of vendors focusing on different topics. Interactive aspects or free samples are great. Also, time between classes to visit vendors is a must.
- Technology - Wi-fi is a must either free or at a cost, I don't care. Presenters should use technology in their presentation and be familiar with it beforehand. For those attendees can't travel, offer webinars.
- Community - I loved meeting fellow bloggers face to face. I'm not a people person and probably came off a little quiet or hesitant, but seeing other bloggers was a highlight of the Atlanta History Expo. Some sort of "collaboration" area would be great.
What Pushes Me Away
- The opposite of everything I listed above - High prices, far away locations, unexpected changes, limited content and no access to technology
- Unprepared Presenters and Vendors - Be on time, have backups for technical problems, have enough handouts for everyone, and if you promise to mail out something later - do it! Even based on one conference, I have set opinions on certain companies or presenters that are not likely to change.
- Lines - lines can be avoided with time management. Give some extra time between presentations and consider a longer lunch break. Offer a large venue with many options, as well as space for lines to form if necessary.
- Early Mornings - Why do conferences start so early? As a night owl, I'd love to see them start around 9am and run till dinner, rather than start at 7am and end at 4pm. (I'm sure many disagree with me on this one)
I'd love to attend more conferences and expo, but price and location are very important considerations in getting me to attend. After that, the details will determine if I'll return next year.