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Live-Streaming from Genealogy Conferences – What does the future hold?

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending some of the live-streaming videos offered for free by the good people at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree in Burbank California.

Thank You
I would like to extend my thank you to organizers for allowing me to view theses lectures. This was high-quality stuff. There were a few glitches with passwords but for the most part it was quite successful.

The Future of Live-Streaming

It looks like it’s becoming a trend to offer live-streaming videos of conference lectures to those who cannot attend in person. As a family historian and armchair genealogist, who lives in an area that is remote from most conferences I appreciate this effort.  For example if I had attended this Jamboree, cost too me would have been in the neighbourhood of $1500.00 plus for 4 days in Burbank, California.

Instead, I was able to watch 10 streamed sessions for FREE from the comfort of my couch, and might I add the learning was priceless.

However, I have mentioned this before and I am going to put it out there again. Why not charge for the live-stream? Or even better, have one room being video-taped with 10 free lectures and then another room set up with video with 10 paid for lectures. Choose them wisely, make them must see speakers, like Megan, Elizabeth, Tom, Curt, you get the idea, bring out the big guns, the rockstars.  You know who they are.

I have come to realize that the organizers are open to a monetary contributions to help the cause. But honestly, I had to look to find that information, so I don’t know how they faired with that?

Offer multi-level pricing, free lectures, a package price to view all the lectures and a ala carte menu. Flexibility is the name of the game here. Don’t gouge me for these lectures but charge me a reasonable fee for the privilege of attending virtually.

Ok, so I know your worried if you offer too much of the conference virtually, I won’t want to spend the big bucks and attend in person. Well I got news for you not likely. Offering the free lectures certainly motivates me to attend conferences. I want to be a part of the action and the fun. It gives me a window into this world, especially if I have never attended a conference before.  I believe there is a large part of the genealogy world that has not attended a conference. Why, well they either are intimidated or they can’t afford it, some will never be able to afford it. Live-streaming lectures can eliminate some of these obstacles.

By offering a multi-tiered package of free and paid for lectures you will be opening up the power of conferences to a whole new audience and you create a little extra revenue for yourself in the process. In a nutshell, new audience, new revenue stream, who doesn’t want that.

Many of us can only attend one or two conferences a year, so attending virtually makes the most sense. Therefore the idea of expanding your virtual audience I think is a no brainer. Many of these virtual attendees will always be your virtual audience, don’t miss out on them because you would rather see them attend in person. In my opinion these are two different audiences. Sure, there will be some cross-over and some will be inspired to attend a conference in person. However, I don’t think you’ll see a decline in numbers because of live-streaming lectures, if anything, those virtual customers may just jump on a plane and show up at your door.

Missed Opportunities

One way to know for sure, send out a survey. Pick the brains of people like me. I have attended several conferences now and several more virtually. It’s not unusual to receive a survey at the end of a conference, however, I do not believe I have ever received a survey from a genealogy conference promoter after having attended virtually.  Really, what a missed opportunity. SCGS promoters sent me timely reminders to my inbox before each lecture, with all the necessary information, but no where did it ask me for a donation or send to me to survey, missed opportunity. Consider this blog post my survey to you.

That’s my two cents of where I think genealogy conferences and live-streaming should be headed. I hope someone is listening, all ideas are free for the taking.

Did you attend the live-streaming at SCGS? Do you have some ideas to add? Offer your thoughts in the comments below.


Marian Pierre-Louis said...

Great post! A lot to consider there.

Michelle Goodrum said...

Many good ideas. I was able to attend several sessions virtually since I couldn't be there in person. It was the next best thing.

Jana Last said...

Awesome post! Love the ideas. I haven't attended any conferences yet, but I watched some of the live-streaming classes from Rootstech 2012 and I loved them. And yes, it has motivated me to consider attending Rootstech 2013.

Denise Barrett Olson said...

I agree. Although I can't afford attending more than one conference a year, I can definitely afford a virtual registration to participate from a distance. And, if exhibitors offered virtual demos along with Skype or Face Time for answering questions, I'd be all over them too. I think a virtual track would bring conferences distant attendees they wouldn't get otherwise and once events like Jamboree pave the way, others will follow.

Eve said...

I also attended the live-streaming sessions offered by the SCGS last weekend, but one thing I haven't really seen mentioned is people donating via the Paypal link they had on their webpage.

If you want to see more of this sort of thing, sending at least a few dollars would at least show that people are willing to support events like these.

Lynn Palermo said...

Denise, I think there is a great opportunity for exhibitors to jump in here. I know many had draws that could easily have extended to online attendees.

Lynn Palermo said...

Eve, exactly, but it was only after doing some research for this post that I even knew they were taking donations. The paypal button should have been added in an email to make it very convenient for attendees.

Michelle Goodrum said...

Eve, I agree. What I did was include a donation with my membership renewal which is due in a couple weeks anyway.

So, it's not too late for those who still want to donate. It can still be done on their website:

On the right sidebar, click on Contributions and then on Donate online now.

Devon Lee said...

I'm not at the season of my life when I could go to a conference of any type except what the local Family History Center offers in my area. So, I think virtual attendance would be very helpful. It would take some getting use to, as I've never attended any virtual course before. However, with the growth of online courses for college, high school, etc; this is certainly something many would be familiar with. So... my two cents is that online streaming could bring in more attendees from those who wouldn't think of going to a conference because of current circumstances. And, if they enjoy the online events enough, then they would be interested in attending live in the future.