Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, September 15, 2014

What I have learned from Presenting at Genealogy Conferences

You might not have noticed, but the list of my upcoming conference presentations is very short. In contrast, in the past, there were months when I had three or even more presentations scheduled for conferences around the country and I had over twenty conferences scheduled. Although I am teaching perhaps many more hours than I have in the past, I am doing this locally where I now live in Utah Valley. Part of this change in emphasis comes from fundamental changes in the genealogical community. Other reasons for the change are personal in nature. I am still scheduled to present at #RootsTech 2015, but so far, that is the only conference I have scheduled in 2015.

This past week, I taught seventeen classes on various subject about genealogy that included five full days, about 10 to 12 hours in some cases, of additional helping people one-on-one. I am by no means announcing my retirement from the conference circuit, but I am acknowledging that my focus is on smaller groups and more individual assistance. In the meantime, I will be featured in YouTube videos and webinars that are already in the planning stage. Because of all this, I thought it appropriate to have a retrospective.

For many of us, genealogy is a solitary and very research focused persuasion. Attending and presenting at conferences became a way for me to add a social aspect to my consummate interest in genealogy. I have always enjoyed teaching and presenting at conferences enabled me to expand the reach of my classes. But the gains from presenting at a major conference do not always outweigh the benefits from person-to-person contact in smaller classroom situations. I find the most enjoyable aspect of teaching genealogy to take place when I am working with one person and helping them succeed in finding their ancestors.

There are some advantages to traveling around the country and meeting with all the wonderful, friendly and very dedicated people who attend the conferences. But my focus has continued to become more centered on those people in my immediate area of contact. Even though I have enjoyed the opportunities to speak to large audiences, I find more satisfaction from working with much smaller groups.

In addition, I find the genealogy conference scene to be changing. Many of the presenters I would meet at local conferences have moved on to the "big time" and only present when the numbers in attendance justify their expenses in attending. Many conference regulars now appear frequently in world-wide webinars, attend genealogy cruises and even appear in the national media. This is especially true of those former small conference presenters who are making their living from their presentations or from spin-off products. I am in no way disparaging this phenomena, but I am not in this for the money and have no desire to start promoting my own products by starting another company. For this reason, I have chosen not to submit a number of proposals to the bigger conferences and then have the expense of traveling to locations around the country and world. RootsTech is an exception because it is in my own backyard.

So, I have learned several things about myself and whole lot about the genealogical community at large. One thing I have learned is that I will be spending even more time writing. I have been working, off and on, on several book ideas, but those ideas are now firming up into plans for more frequent publication. The books will most likely be published online as ebooks and will cover a variety of genealogical topics.

Early on, I viewed my blog, in part, as a vehicle to promote opportunities to present at conferences. That view has changed and I now see the writing and blogging as being more far reaching and important than personal appearances at conferences. As I mentioned above, my teaching is now more focused on the BYU Family History Library and other Family History Centers and more local opportunities to teach.

Meanwhile, my focus will be on writing, teaching on a local level, working with individuals and organizing and researching my own genealogy.


  1. I am new to genealogy and am amazed by the resources available. I don't know where my current projects will take me. But I am amazed and a little taken aback by (what seems) to be the bigness and expense of the many conferences. Reminds me of software conferences for the big companies back in my past life. I enjoy your blog and your thoughts... Dianne