Recently I was asked about getting ready for the Family History Expo in Kansas City. I am pleased the reader is going to attend that Expo. There is really no mystery about getting ready to attend a genealogy conference. However, you do want to make it the best experience possible. Here are some unscientific tips!
1. Prepare ahead of time by registering. YGGG#2 and I recommend that you register for both days of an Expo. That way you get the most bang for the bucks. Make sure you have room reservations (if you are staying overnight) ahead of schedule. Most hotels near or where the Expo is held fill up fast. In addition, the Expo is usually not the only event going on in large conference centers.
2. Keep checking the Family History Expo web page for your specific conference information. Closer to the time of the event, they will have a link for the syllabus. It can be downloaded in PDF. From that you can either print out all of the 200 plus pages or you can print out pages for classes you wish to attend.
3. YGGG #2 and I print out the entire syllabus and put it in a 3 ring notebook. We can review it ahead of time and decide which classes we wish to attend. Occasionally we change our mind about a class. Somebody at the Expo may recommend one over another or you may just have a mood swing at the last minute. Yes, the syllabus notebook is a big one to lug around at a conference, but it's worth it. (See #10)
4. Most people I have seen at Expos don't carry these notebooks. However, many times I have been asked about the syllabus notebook. I take notes directly to the notebook during the lecture. People tell me they wish they had printed it off or at least printed off what pertains to each class they attend. Presenters will often make reference to something in the syllabus and that's when you see blank looks.
5. The syllabus is also given to you in PDF format on CD when you register at the Expo. If you take your laptop into a class, you can download the syllabus and follow along in that manner. Not all rooms will have tables, so you may be forced to juggle the laptop on your lap. At the time of registration you can also opt to purchase the syllabus for a fee. That means in both instances you may have approximately 30 to 45 minutes before the opening speech to prepare for your classes. That's exactly why we print off the syllabus ahead of time.
6. Take comfortable clothes. Be prepared for changes in temperature from one conference room to another. You should take a sweater or light jacket just in case a room is chilly. Comfortable walking shoes are a must as you may be walking a little distance between classrooms and the exhibit hall.
7. Take money! It is tempting to buy everything in sight. The vendors at any genealogical conference are there to entice you to buy. Some may have interesting displays and demonstrations. If you are interested in software, be sure to ask questions and attend any hands-on demonstrations they are presenting.
8. The Family History Expos have a booth Ask The Pros. It is free and you can get advise on genealogy problems and brickwalls. If you are in need of this advise, go prepared with your information. Be sure you know the sources you have checked as well as names, dates and location of events.
9. Genealogy conferences are great for making friends. If you go with genealogy friends, branch out and visit with people from other areas. Make new friends. Be prepared to exchange e-mails. At lunch time, set with somebody you have never met. At the end of each class the presenter will normally ask for questions. Don't be afraid to ask and don't be afraid of presenters. They started "in the beginning" like everybody else and are there to share their expertise. They also learn from you!
10. How do you get yourself and all your "stuff" around the conference? You will see anything and everything at conferences. People who don't print out the syllabus are usually seen carrying a file folder and notepad. If you have "baggage" consider a backpack or bag on wheels. After your first conference, you will know what works best for you. If you have a hand held devise, you can also take notes on that. If you have a Twitter account, they encourage you to tweet highlights. I usually take up two chairs in a non-table room ... one for me and one for my baggage which includes a notebook, laptop computer, iPod Touch ... and I go with the wheels.
It is great experience and we hope you will attend at least one conference a year. Broaden your knowledge, speak the language of genealogy for a weekend and make new friends. Most importantly apply what you learn to your genealogical research.
YGGG #1 -- Ruby