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.
MARY'S CONFERENCE TIPS, PT. 4
10. ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE FOR A DISAPPOINTING CONFERENCE! All conferences have several social functions, which are meant to be fun. They often include an awards ceremony, ho hum - you're not getting anything and you don't know any of these people. But wait, pay attention and you'll be amazed at the accomplishments of the honorees. They may even inspire you to do more for the cause. And, just because you don't know them now, try to get a chance to congratulate them later. 99% of the folks who win these awards are real "people persons". They could be an ally who can help you someday. Fortunately, everyone at a conference wears a nametag, so remember the names, and if you pass them in the hall, tell them "congrats!"
The food is usually good, but the two best things about the banquets and luncheon are the people you meet at your table and the speaker. Unlike the educational presentations you'll hear at sessions throughout the day, the speakers at meal events are either very humorous or very inspirational, and they are all true entertainers! You'll be glad you went.
Many of the luncheons are sponsored by various genealogy organizations. If you don't know what the initials stand for, look them up. I recommend making your choices by the organization of which you are a member or that you are considering joining rather than the speaker. Many of the organizations scatter their officers and committee chairs throughout the room at different tables, so everyone will have a chance to ask questions and get to know at least one representative of the organization.
So what's the catch? You have to register way in advance. Meals are planned very strictly down to the exact number of registrants and guests. However, there is one possibility for latecomers. Sometimes people purchase meals in advance and then can't go. Ask at the information desk where you can contact these people to purchase their tickets. I've never heard of a scalper at a genealogy conference, so just be prepared to pay the advertised price. Sometime, the ticket owner is willing to just give the ticket away!
Other social opportunities are tours or receptions at historical or research sites, or city tours of multiple sites. Frequently, but not always, transportation is provided. Sometimes it's free, sometimes not. Again, you often have to indicate your intentions in advance, although not always. If you can, these events offer an excellent chance to see what various research facilities have to offer you if you ever need to do research in this locality. And you have yet another opportunity to network with other genealogists. Take your business cards with you and don't be shy. If you see someone wearing a nametag of a speaker you have heard, an author whose books or articles you've read, or someone with a surname or from a place you are researching, introduce yourself. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Take a SMALL camera. You don't want to be carrying a large, heavy camera bag around, so, unless you've been contracted to take professional photos, just have fun shooting candid shots to remember the wonderful people you are going to meet and places you will see. They now make disposable cameras with flash, video, underwater, or whatever feature you think you'll need.
Know yourself. If you have limited stamina or health issues, you might need to skip these events and get to bed early so you are refreshed for the next day's adventure. You are missing out on a lot of fun, but you don't want to wear yourself down so that you get little out of the conference, or worse yet, get ill. Being sick in a hotel room is pretty miserable, I know!
11. FOOD FOR THOUGHT. Don't ruin your health or your attention because you're hungry -- and don't distract the others around you because your stomach is growling so loudly! First of all, sign up for the meal events. You're going to get all you need of the basic nutritional requirements and then some! Most major hotels will have a formal restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast often features a breakfast bar which is especially convenient if you overslept! However, don't expect any bargains in these restaurants.
Most hotels or convention centers also have a snack bar, coffee shop, grille, etc. where you can pick up something in a hurry. They are also not cheap, but usually not as expensive as the sit-down restaurant.
Many times, the hotel is located in an urban area where there are neighboring fast food restaurants or coffee shops which really are a bargain. You'll probably need to exit the hotel and walk a block or two. Ask at the concierge or front desk for recommendations.
Finally, if you're from the area and are driving in, fill up that cooler with fruit, yogurt, and other quick breakfast snacks. You might want to bring microwaveable packaged meals if there's a microwave in your room. Again, check ahead and plan how much you are willing to spend on food and act accordingly.
I usually bring some snacks, like nuts and candy, and a soft drink that I can use as a pick-me-up in the mid-afternoon when I get really sleepy-- ZZZZZZZzzzzzzz. I don't know why, but the temperature always seems to rise when my stomach is full and content. If you've had this same experience, I recommend sitting at the back of the room. Most hotels will provide water in the back of the session rooms. Take your own or go get a glass. Chew gum or suck on some hard candy. Remove as many outer wraps as is decent. Sit up straight. Excuse yourself to walk outside to get a breath of fresh air and then go right back. Do whatever you can to avoid snoring in the middle of an otherwise excellent program! This does NOT make a good impression!
Mary E. Celeste
Kansas City, MO