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Recommendations for a Virtual Genealogy Conference


It comes as no surprise to my readers that I am a big fan of online conferences. With each online conference, (I have attended others outside of genealogy) I learn more and more about what appeals to me when I attend these virtual conferences.

Like many of you, this past Saturday, I participated in the SCGS Live Video Streaming of some of the lectures taking place in Southern California.

Live Streaming of genealogy conferences is really quite new, with Rootstech breaking the way earlier this year. I have no doubt others will follow, and certainly, next year there will be more changes and improvements to the online genealogy conference.

I don’t want to take this opportunity to pick away at Saturday’s lectures but rather applaud them for offering up the free lectures to those of us at home.

I know with time there will be changes and as someone who has attended other conferences I think I can offer up a few recommendations for those organizations that are looking to take their virtual conference to the next level.

I am more than willing to pay for an online conference. These suggestions are based on the family historian paying for the virtual conference, as many of the ideas I am about to suggest take time and money to implement.  Assuming this is the path we are headed with genealogy conferences, and I believe we are, here are my recommendations.


  •   Plenty of advance time to register – I like to be able to clear my weekend for these events and prepare my family for my somewhat lack of attention to them.  I would also like to be able to decide which conferences I wish to attend , assuming there will be more than one available to choose from in the near future. Just as I like to size up which conference I wish to attend in person, I wish for the same opportunity in a virtual conference.  Therefore, a little lead-time to prepare my budget and myself would be nice.
  • Multiple Days – Yup, I would like attend for more than just one day. Just like those attending in person, I would like to be able to attend for 3 days because perhaps I can, or one day or two days will work better for me. Flexibility is the key for the consumer. 

  • Top Notch Technology – I have attended conferences that were strictly audio, video is not as important to me, put  a power  point slide show with the audio and notes I can download are very important. Some speakers talk very quickly, so notes and slide shows go along way if video proves to be a problem or more costly.  Don’t skimp here, free or not, nothing is more frustrating than faulty technology, nothing will send a customer away faster.
  • Ability to download recordings for listening to later – this gives me the option of listening later to a seminars that didn’t fit into my schedule or a lecture I want to review at my own pace.
  •  The Basics  – this in my mind would be the bare minimum I would expect to pay for, attendance of all available online lectures, all lecture notes, the ability to download all online lectures after the fact.                                       
  •  An online exhibitor’s halls - the ability to access an online exhibitors hall, where I can follow links to their websites, participate in any specials or free e-books or downloads. These are usually done in exchange for email addresses, and I’m ok with that. I like the free stuff. Bring it on.
  • Different levels of packages at different price points - I don’t expect to make this too complicated for the organizers.  Perhaps, a couple of options for those who want the bare bones basics and others who want the bells and whistles.  For example:    Standard Package- attendance of any of the online featured seminars of your choice with download capabilities  Premium Package –access to Exhibitors hall, downloads, free subscriptions, e-books etc. 
  • Value for the Money – I have no problem paying for a virtual conference. I have been known to pay up to $200.00 for a 3-day online conference.  I felt I got my monies worth on those occasions and walked away with a sense of rejuvenation and motivation that I get from attending a live conference. I would love to see the genealogy conference come to this point in the near future.  If all of the above suggestions were implemented, I definitely feel I was getting value for my money.  I believe instead of attending one conference a year in person, which I would continue to do, I would attend maybe 3 virtual conferences each year along with the one I attend in person. This is a win-win for everyone.  

What are you looking for in an online genealogy conference?  Are there any recommendations you would like to add to the the list? 


6 comments:

  1. As Australians we are ruled by The Tryanny of Distance so online or virtual conferences are very attractive options for us. If we want to see a swag of international speakers gathered in one place at one time we need to take a very costly aeroplane ride.

    Advance notice is important - the anouncement of last weekend's talks was just too late for me as I was already committed.

    An attractive pricepoint is important. I don't mind paying a one-off fee as it is easier for organisers to administer.

    I haven't any original thoughts at the moment but will return when and if I do.

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  2. I love your ideas! I frequently attend webinars at work and find them quite enjoyable. Managers and presented have improved significantly with experience and I expect the same will happen in the genea-world.

    Virtual exhibits can also be enjoyable and cost-effective. With video demonstrations and easy to initiate chats via Skype, Google, Yahoo or Face Time, customers can get questions answered and vendors can make their pitch.

    What's needed is a period of experimenting where we - attendees, vendors, speakers and conference organizers - try out the different technologies to see which work best and then get comfortable using them.

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  3. @Geniaus I believe many of us are under the same Tyranny, and it provides a great opportunity to organizers
    @Moultrie Creek great ideas for virtual exhibits. Absolutely a period of experimenting will be required. Let's hope the powers that be are listening.

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  4. Hi, Lynn!

    It's funny that you posted this, because Family Tree University just opened registration for a Virtual Conference happening this summer. :)

    I don't want to get all sales-pitchy in your comments, so I'll just share the link: http://www.familytreeuniversity.com/summer-2011-virtual-conference

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  5. Thanks Grace, I'll check it out!

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  6. Hi -

    I would love to see the existing in-person conferences enhance their recording offerings... CDs are great but they feel rather old-school, and I know of companies that provide a live learning experience, including MP3/online access, audio/video on demand, etc. I would be willing to pay to access a variety of sessions as opposed to having to access things piecemeal.

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