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

Friday, February 21, 2014

A New Paradigm for Genealogy Conferences?

Here are several very similar and connected events:

  • I heard a newscast today on the radio (yes, radio does still exist and I do listen from time to time) about a school district that was requiring students to attend classes online due to overcrowding. 
  • One of the significant things I learned about my high school experience was that I could have avoided going to school altogether by obtaining a GED degree and studying on my own. 
  • Yesterday, I participated in a Webinar sponsored by the Utah Genealogical Association and got a comment from my friend Jill Ball in Australia. 
  • #RootsTech 2014 is holding 622 or so individual local genealogy conferences all around the world, in ten different languages, with content recorded at the main Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah
  • I routinely now carry on face to face Google+ Hangout conversations with people around the world.
  • I took classes from Brigham Young University on genealogy for five years through their Independent Study Program while I lived in Mesa, Arizona and visited the campus only two or three times for the classes.
  • Sometime ago, I taught an interactive class on genealogy, where the participants were in Tucson, Arizona and I was on a Google+ Hangout in Mesa.

The list could go on and on. In some cases, recently, I have been "invited" to participate in a conference at some considerable distance from my home and have had to decline due to the cost and time involved in traveling to the conference. But let me ask a question.

What if I could come to your local conference and do a presentation at little or no expense to your organization and little time commitment for me? What if that conference could be interactive, with participants able to ask questions at any time during the presentation and everyone had a front row seat?

I guess what I am saying is that this is entirely possible now. Granted, the online Webinar experience is still full of technological quirks and problems, but for the most part, as the #RootsTech 2014 experience illustrates, having a "well-known" speaker may not require an exorbitant outlay of resources. The average Google+ Hangout can have ten participants, but if you only have two, you can do an entire conference. All you have to do is have the participants side of the conference in a room or conference hall with a sound system and a video projector. There also needs to be a way for the speaker to "see" and hear the audience with a reciprocal video camera.

Audio only with on computer screen presentations are now extremely commonplace. There are genealogists now, such as DearMyrtle and Geoff Rasmussen, who are routinely conducting online Webinars. We have a whole series of Webinars planned for the Mesa FamilySearch Library and my next one is on March 12, 2014 at 7:00 Arizona Time.

Do you really care where I am presently located while I write my blog posts? Would it matter at all? Would you like me or some other presenter to come to your small local meeting? Why not consider using the currently available technology to avoid all the time, cost and effort involved in having me travel all across the county and still have the opportunity to have a presentation?

Think about it. Try it out. See if it would work.

Granted, (anticipating comments) it is really nice to be somewhere in person and I love to attend conferences like the ones I have tomorrow and next week, but there are other considerations that may make the electronic alternative more and more viable.


  1. This would be very helpful for small societies like mine, who can't afford to pay for speaker's travel fees. I do believe this is the future of genealogy education. I think it might take a few years for others to get on board and accept virtual speakers as an alternative. It is also a great way to get quality speakers.

  2. Many people on the underside of the earth would never have the opportunity to hear speakers from the US, UK and other parts of Australia if it was not for these 21st Century modes of delivery. I feel so privileged to be able to join Webinars like I did when I listened to you yesterday.

    I have been hosting GeniAus Hangouts on Air for several months now. These casual sessions have been very well received and are attracting participants and viewers from all corners of Australia plus England, Wales and the US.

    Genealogy is a collaborative activity and these online platforms provide the means for us to collaborate outside our neighbourhoods.

  3. While I believe this is the future of speakers and using technology is great most of the local societies that I have been exposed to have such poor Wi-Fi or other connections that they are unable to offer Internet-based video. We are usually at the mercy of whatever setup a friendly library or senior center, etc. provide us for our meetings.

    1. That sounds like another subject for a blog post. Thanks. I will be getting to that issue as soon as I can. Reminds me when we had crank telephones and switchboard when I was a lot younger.