In Genealogical Conferences – The Magic Recipe, Thomas MacEntee encourages genea-bloggers to write posts this week about genealogy conference and seminar issues. 

Today’s topic is:   “Taking It All In – and finally on Friday, May 6, 2011, we’ll hear from the attendees of genealogy conferences.  

I have been waiting all week to post this and FINALLY I can!  I love going to genealogy conferences.  I meet new fellow genealogist and learn a lot of new methods and techniques.  I have attended a few society workshops and have attanded the SCGS Jamboree a few times, but I have yet to attend an NGS conference.  Unfortunately they were not held anwhere near the state I lived in when I was able to attend.  Thankfully I had found out that NGS Conference is looking to the west coast for the 2013 conference.  I am very excited to attend my first NGS conference and really can’t wait!  (See my post on the NGS coming to the western U.S. here.)

1) How do you decide which ones to attend.   Right now finances rule how I decide which conferences to attend.  I have two reqirements that must be met when choosing which I will attend.  1)  The conference must be local.  By local, I mean that it must not cost more than $200 to travel to by air.  This limits me to the western states, (Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Idaho) including California, the state I live in.  2)  Hotel costs must be reasonable.  I could afford up to $100 a night.  If the conference is held in a hotel as opposed to a convention center, and if its not a reasonably priced one, I will have to look for others that are more in my price range. 

If money were no object, I would love to attend each and every conference that was pertinent to my research and dealt with subjects I am researching.  But until then, I must follow my requirements.

2) How far in advance do you start making plans?  I start making my plans on attending a genealogy conference anywhere from 6 months up to 3 years in advance.   This is helpful in planing how much I spend on each conference and balance my family life events as well. 

3) What do you look for when you take in a conference?   I look to the varitey of classes and its applicablity to my research.  I also enjoy that the conference planners include the experience level suggestions for each class.   This year’s NGS conference has several tracks to follow and it provides for many different experience levels.   In looking at this years NGS conference, there were so many classes that I would have loved to have taken.  I know several of them, ok most of them, would have conflicted with each other and were held at the same time.  Still, I so wish I could have traveled to South Carolina to attend this year as they had many, many classes that I was interested in taking even though I had no family history in South Carolina.

4)  What would you love to see at a genealogy conference?  I would love, LOVE to see guarantee seating for each class.  If tickets need to be sold for each class and the resigration fee lowered, then so be it, but as you will read below, its frustrating not having a guaranteed seat when I pay over $100 to attend.   I would rather pay about $25 or so per class and have guaranteed seating.  For example, if I take 4 classes a day, I would be paying $100 a day.  For the SCGS Jamboree this year, they would get more money from me as I only paid $90 for early bird registration.  SCGS would earn an extra $110 from me and if they lowered the class price to $20 for early bird registration, they would still earn an extra $70.  I would gladly pay that amount knowing that my seat would be guaranteed for the classes I registered for.  I know that there are contractual obligations between a conference planner and a speaker and am not sure how they would be able to work it out with charging for each class as I suggested above, but as an attend, I am confident that they would be able to work it out.

5) What are your frustrations and what needs to change?  As stated above, my biggest frustration with the conferences that I have attended is that, although I pay over $100 to attend, I am not guaranteed a seat in any of the classes I want to attend.  If I can’t walk fast enough to get to a class, I am out of luck if it fills up before I get there.  Besides Genealogy, my other hobby is scrapbooking.  The scrapbooking industry is a multimillion dollar industry and at their conferences, I not only pay per class (usually $20-50 which includes products to use on the demos they have us do), but my ticket to each class I want guarantee’s my seat in that class.  

Another frustration is that I wish the audio-recording of each lecture would be downloadable and at a more reasonable price.  The $12 is high for one lecture.  If the downloadable price were to be around $5 I would be buying $20 – $40 of lectures at a time. 

Design the perfect genealogy conference – let your imagination run wild and tell us what you’d love to see at your next conference:

My “Perfect” genealogy conference would be as follows:

Having the NGS and the FGS both held anywhere in the Southern California area at least once every few years, not necessarily at the same time.  Registration would open up a few months early and tickets would be sold for each class available so that an attendee would be guaranteed a seat in the class.  The top 10 classes would be held on several days so that those who missed registration for it on the first day had other opportunities to attend it.  I wish the national genealogy conferences would not wait 7+ years to come back to the Western United States.  This would be my ideal genealogical conference.