Saturday, May 9, 2009

Conference Attendance Tips

Here are some tips and reminders for those of you planning to attend the NGS conference in Raleigh next week. I originally compiled this list for the 2006 NGS Conference blog. So here they are, with minor revisions:

1. Dress in layers. Conference centers can be too hot or too cold, and often both at the same time, depending on whom you talk to. So bring a sweater or light jacket. That way your comfort level won’t be dependent on the hotel’s engineering staff.

2. Wear comfortable shoes. You may sit a lot of the time listening to presentations, but you may also walk a bit of a distance to get to sessions, meals, and the exhibit hall.

3. Bring a water bottle or other liquid refreshment. Staying hydrated can help you keep going and stay alert through full days of listening and learning. You might also want to bring candy or a granola bar. Avoid those with noisy wrappers if you plan to sneak it during a session.

4. Arrive early. Give yourself extra time to find a parking space or wait for an elevator. Plan to get to the meeting room a few minutes early for each session, in order to have a better selection of seats - whether you prefer to be up front so you can read the screen or near an exit for a quick escape.

5. Come prepared. Bring paper and pen (or your laptop) in order to take notes, exchange contact information, or share your family tree with other attendees.

6. Look over the syllabus. Use it to make final decisions about how to spend your time. Once you’ve looked at the handouts for a particular session, you may decide that the talk isn’t what you were expecting based on the title. You may see that a talk is at too low or high a level to meet your needs. Perhaps you can gain all of the information that you want from the syllabus material itself, and would rather attend a different lecture. The syllabus material is a great resource to refer to during and after the conference.

7. Network. Talk to people. Nowhere else can you find such a large group of people who share your love of genealogy. You can talk about your ancestors, compare brick walls, and share your latest research success. You may meet people with surnames you are researching or people from the area where your ancestors lived. The person sitting next to you at lunch may volunteer at a research facility that you’ve been meaning to contact. Bring business cards with your name, contact information, and surnames of interest. This makes it easy to exchange information with other researchers. Go ahead and wear that t-shirt with your family tree printed on it. You never know when you might find someone with a common ancestor!

8. Visit the exhibit hall. This is your chance to look at and even try out products before deciding to purchase them. Some vendors offer discounts, hold drawings or raffles, and give free samples. Vendors in the exhibit hall are able to answer questions, provide demonstrations, and even give one-on-one training. Conference vendors have a huge amount of books available for purchase. This allows you to browse through a book before you buy.

9. Volunteer at the conference. It is a great way to give back to the genealogy community and to meet other conference attendees.

10. Most important, have fun! Enjoy yourself, meet new people and return home energized!

I hope to see you in Raleigh!