Thomas MacEntee posted an interesting blog article about the state of genealogy conferences today. http://www.geneabloggers.com/real-genealogy-conference-attendance-numbers/ It comes on the heels of the Federation of Genealogy Society Conference that I've just returned from in Birmingham Alabama. Great to see everyone. Lots of fun going out to dinner and such. Not the greatest conference. I'm fascinated with Thomas' topic on several levels.
As a company owner of course this affects my bottom line. The genealogy market is a very tricky market to hit and if we had healthier conferences we would be able to have a much stronger industry and much more innovation for the genealogist.
As a frequent conference goer, I was fascinated with my trip to Who Do You Think You Are Live in London this year. They are doing something right there--I think the final count for the three days was 15,000? Something like that. I wrote extensively about the differences on my blog--http://www.thechartchick.blogspot.com/2012/03/what-americans-need-to-learn-from.html and other posts in March. Basically they come to DO genealogy at the conferences NOT LEARN about it. Learning only gets you glossy eyes 12 hours in. DOING makes the conference accessible to all skill levels. It is the Home and Garden Show model as opposed to the Scholarly conference model. We have to shift our model if we want to get the big numbers like the quilters and the other hobbyists do. Be sure to catch Mel Wolfgang's posts listed in the post above. Comments on Thomas' blog are right. Amy is right. Tessa is right. We have to change it up a bit.
I think the comments on Thomas' blog post demonstrate that the U.S. model for genealogy conferences is stale. We've all commented that we go for the camaraderie. That tells me that the event isn't really doing anything for us.
So--as Utah Genealogical Association President this year I've talked my board into doing some Research and Development for the genealogy community. (I have the BEST board). On September 21st and 22nd at our local community college, UGA is sponsoring a Family History Fair for the Whole Family. We've reduced the price for vendors and asked them to do an activity table along with their booth. It is a win win for them because they can create the traffic to their booth. We have gravestone rubbings, and photo booths and free popcorn and all sorts of things going on. We tried out our pedigree game in Southern California and it was good to shake things up for the adults as well as the younger generation. We've freshened up the schedule, with all levels, and we're doing games for young children on Saturday. We're hopeful that everyone will bring their children and grandchildren and learn about their family history as a family. I think it will be a great event for the whole community. Keep your fingers crossed. I'm not sure how a conference this different is going to go. But we are going to learn alot. And I'm so excited to be able to do something different.
Thank you Thomas. As always your refreshing attitude is so good for this industry.