Thursday, April 03, 2008


MoSGA Board member Mary E. Celeste has offered us some tips on getting the most out of our NGS Conference experience in May 2008. Her guide is fairly lengthy, so I will be posting it over several days. Enjoy!

NOTE: Mary is not an official NGS spokesperson- these tips are based on her own past attendance at national genealogical conferences.


3. WHAT DO YOU WEAR TO A CONFERENCE? It’s important to know what to wear, but don’t go shopping for a new wardrobe. “Comfort” is the key to a conference that you will enjoy.

Shoes: Wear comfortable low heels or flats, and, absolutely, do NOT buy a new pair of shoes and plan to wear them to the conference! You’ll be on your feet quite a bit, so you’ll want shoes that you’ve broken in.

Clothing: Dress in layers. “Murphy’s Law” dictates that the temperature in the rooms will be either too hot or too cold – and will fluctuate from one room to another. You’ll see lots of ladies with large scarves or shawls that are easy to fold up and tuck in a bag. You can purchase these inexpensively at department stores and gift shops. The other option, of course, for males or females, is to wear a sweater or jacket, with a shirt or blouse that will be comfortable if you take the outer garment off. The smart idea is to bring mix-and-match business casual separates in a complementary color scheme. That gives you multiple looks with fewer actual pieces.

There are no dress codes, but I wouldn’t recommend jeans. If you are a professional genealogist or one who would like to break into the lecture circuit, I would strongly recommend dressing as a professional. It is absolutely amazing the people you will meet, and you never know when a “networking” opportunity may present itself. You’ll want to be ready to make a good first impression at any time during the conference.

When I went to conferences thirty years ago, we took day clothes AND evening clothes, which were very dressy. These days, it’s not common to see tuxedos and long gowns, except, perhaps for special honorees and speakers. Now, just about “anything goes”. In fact, I went to a library conference once where a well-known political speaker wore a beautiful sequined gown for her presentation. When I got up to the table for an autograph, I noticed that she was wearing bedroom slippers! (Remember my advice about new shoes?) So, for today’s conferences, I’d recommend wearing comfortable clothes in the daytime, professional attire if you want to make a good impression, and something nice but not formal for the evening events. In fact, it is common to wear the same clothes all day and evening.

Of course, there are a few who wear ethnic clothing, particularly the Scotsmen. They really add some class to the conference!

4. WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT THE SYLLABUS? If you’ve never been to a genealogy conference, you’re in for a big surprise. Most other conferences have a syllabus that tells you who is speaking, the title of their talk, where to go, and what time. If you are torn between two programs, you just have to flip a coin and pick the one that sounds like it will be the best.

However, the syllabus for genealogy conferences features outlines and handouts from almost every speaker! So, you can read ahead and get an idea of what to expect. You get up to four pages for each program, so you can bring home more than just the programs you attended! That is a HUGE bonus! So, do you want the CD or the print version?

The print version is something we all know and love – it is often in multiple book form. Think of a stack of four telephone books? You’re right, they’re a real load to carry and take up lots of space on your book shelf. Another negative is that they are hard to open flat enough to get a good photocopy. But they are wonderful to follow along during the presentation and take notes only on those comments which were not in the handout.

So how about the CDs? Well, obviously they’re a whole lot easier to carry and store. They are every word searchable and you can print out any page or pages you want. You will love the convenience. Best of all, they weigh almost nothing, a feature you will appreciate more every day of the conference!

And here’s another great convenience. Three weeks before the conference, the entire syllabus will be posted online, viewable only to registered conference attendees. This allows you to really look at what is available and plan precisely which sessions you want to attend. This is a wonderful idea. I’ve often gone to a session based only on the title and a brief description and found that it wasn’t at all what I expected. I’ve also been torn between two presentations which were scheduled simultaneously and missed out on most of both because I was trying to run back and forth to get loose handouts and pick up a little of each presentation.

5. “MY CONFERENCE PLANNER”: After you’ve registered and had a chance to look through the online syllabus, available three weeks before the conference, check out the “My Conference Planner”. This nifty tool allows you to plan your conference experience by adding all the sessions you want to see, vendors you want to visit, and meals and social events you just can’t miss. Once you’ve made your final decision, print it out and you’ve got your own personal daily “itinerary”. It’s so much easier than constantly opening a syllabus to see where you want to go next, spending hours writing out all the information, or walking around the conference venue in a zombie state just hoping you’ll run into something interesting. This tool is a fantastic convenience for you – use it!

One special tip-- get to the presentation room as early as possible and sit in front, unless you anticipate leaving early. If you are concerned about the possibility of leaving early because of a need to use the restroom, you’re not feeling well, etc., select a seat near the front but on the outside aisle, so you won’t need to step in front of others to get to the aisle.

Mary E. Celeste
Kansas City, MO

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