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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

FGS 2011 ~ The How

How does one prepare for an annual genealogy event that lasts for several days?

I brought some unnecessary items along to Springfield and learned a few important lessons. One was that my arms get tired carrying all that stuff! So for the next genealogy conference, here's what I'll take:

Backpack: Hands-free carryall*. I was forever setting my briefcase down and picking it up again, particularly in the vendor area. A backpack could have been slung over one shoulder allowing me to keep my things close without the risk of leaving them behind. Sure would have made shopping easier!

Clothing: Lots of layer options. Some rooms are warm, some are cool. Crowding makes a difference, so the room that starts out too cool can quickly become too warm as seats are filled. Lightweight sweaters and wraps over short sleeves worked best for me.

Liquids. You will need water. Conference coordinators had water available in the main hall between programs which was very thoughtful. But I was still quite parched by the end of each 10 hour day. Next time I'll bring an easy-to-refill easy-to-identify-as-mine container in my backpack.

Drugs: Think mini personal pharmacy. There isn't a CVS in the conference center. If you have ever experienced allergies, colds, headaches, or papercuts; plan and pack accordingly.

Files: Less of them. Paper copies of family group sheets times 16 ancestral lines are cumbersome. Without a laptop I felt I had to bring photocopies, but I didn't have the time (or the need) to look at them. Even if I had researched more in Springfield, I could have carried less than I did.

Handouts: Group them per workshop. One of the things I did right was planning my classes ahead of time and stapling the pages for each of those workshops separately. I carried one day's worth at a time. Easy peasy. I did change my mind on one track, and managed just fine without the handouts.

Research questions. Have them prepared before you arrive. This isn't to say you won't think of new questions while you're at the conference; you will. But a post-it note on my stapled handouts reminded me to listen for a specific resource or repository that would impact one of my brick wall ancestors.

Notetaking: Use a composition book. I'm so glad I thought of this for the Springfield trip! The hard cover gave me a writing surface in crowded rooms. My notes are in the order of the programs I attended. The people I want to connect with are listed with the class in which I met them. Brilliant!

*I saw people with carry-ons on wheels in the conference area. I would not recommend these. The area was crowded with more than 2000 people who were looking straight ahead, not down at the floor. The people pulling these bags didn't see all the near-collisions left in their wake.

What do you bring to genealogy conferences? Have you ever brought something you wished you hadn't? What will you do differently next time?


Jen said...

Great suggestions!

Brenda Leyndyke said...

Hi, Laura. Great post. I brought too many files too. I never looked at them. One thing I did that was helpful was to list surnames and time periods on the back of the syllabus, before I left home. For example, on the Mennonite session I wrote my mennonite family names, places, and years. If I had specific questions I wrote those on the back too.

Michelle Goodrum said...

I like your idea of using a backpack! For note taking I use spiral notebooks similar to the composition notebooks with the same results you mention. I totally agree with you.

Becky Higgins said...

Great ideas, Laura and you were so well planned:) My only addition here is if you have a smart phone, get a genealogy app (like gen-view) and load your whole file. Then you'll always have your family information available for research. Although, I've found it's really rare to have time to research and attend a conference unless you take an extra day or two.

Laura said...

Brenda, listing names and dates on the syllabus was brilliant. I may have another use for that idea too; thanks for sharing!

Michelle, spiral notebooks work well too. Excellent idea!

Becky, you're always more technologically advanced than me! lol I'll have to look into an app - it will be my first one!

Susan Clark said...

Great post, Laura. I did have a backpack. Loved it, but I needed a really wide turning radius when I had it on. Didn't always get it and bumped quite a few people. I don't think I did any permanent damage.

I printed the syllabi but used my laptop for note taking. It worked well for me. Cell phone was invaluable. It was my first "do" with a new phone. I'm glad I had a month to learn the ins & outs before taking it on the road.

The one thing I'll never take again are the 3 books & magazines for evening reading. What was I thinking? Never even picked them up.

Greta Koehl said...

Excellent suggestions! For some reason I did better at my first conference than at the second one. I took a composition book to FGS 2010 and it was perfect, but unfortunately I forgot for NGS 2011. I also like the idea of a backpack but agree with Susan that, like the carry-ons, it can be a weapon. For some reason I also inadvertently switched from binder at FGS to bound syllabus at NGS and therefore couldn't bring the notes for the individual sessions.

Ginger Smith said...

Hi Laura, thanks for the great insight on your experience at FGS. For NGS I had my backpack, however for FGS I used the totebag they gave us because it had a nice long shoulder strap and all I carried with me was my sprial bound notebook. It also had perfectly sized pockets for a bottle water and cell phone. I've been using the same 5-subject notebook for each conference I go to and I stuff the handouts into its pockets. I too got a cold while at the conference and had to make a trip to CVS. I didn't even bother with any files or books because I knew google reader would keep me busy and blogging about my experience would too. Thanks again for sharing!

Laura said...

Susan and Greta, backpack/weapon? Eeek! I may have to reconsider that. Sounds like Ginger is onto something with the shoulder bag. Perhaps a shopping trip is in order; the perfect "something" surely exists somewhere.

Ginger, love the 5-subject notebook idea. Way to stay organized! With my luck, I'd be spilling the contents at every workshop. LOL

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