May 6, 2012

But How Can I Choose? Tips for Picking Conference Lectures

I’m delighted to have been named one of the Official Bloggers for the NGS 2012 Family History Conference (thanks, NGS!). I’m busy getting things ready to go to Cincinnati, and a big part of that is trying to pick which lecture sessions I want to attend. But that’s no easy task—the NGS Conference has 10 lectures scheduled for each time period! Ten. And they all look great.

Obviously, you can’t be in all those places at once, much as you’d like to be. So how do you choose which sessions to go to?

Picking which sessions to attend is a subjective and highly individualized process. A lot of your choices will depend on your research interests and needs. I recommend going through the conference brochure and circling all the sessions that interest you in pencil. If you see some that you know right off the bat are “must sees” for you, circle them in pen. I use a red pen so I can see them clearly. Some people also mark an “x” through sessions they’re not interested in going to. Your brochure may begin to resemble a tic-tac-toe board, but that’s part of the fun.

NGS has made the full syllabus available online to those who pre-registered. This gives you the chance to study the sessions more closely. Even so, you may still be undecided for some time slots (I know I still am). With that in mind, here are a few questions I ask myself when selecting between lectures scheduled at the same time:
  • Is this a rare chance for me to hear a particular genealogist speak? 
  • Is one of the sessions likely to rely heavily on a visual demonstration? 
  • Will one of the sessions help me develop a skill or learn to use a type of record I’m likely to need frequently? 
  • Could I learn about one of the topics another way, perhaps at a local seminar?
  • Are both of the lectures I’m torn between being recorded? If not, I can go to the one that isn’t being recorded, and order a CD of the other one. Although I’ll miss the visual presentation, the bonus is that I’ll be able to listen to the one on CD multiple times. I usually end up ordering quite a few.
And one last tip: 
  • Be flexible. Sometimes I can’t choose ahead of time between two or three sessions. So I make a note of each of them, and then go to the one I feel like when the time comes. Or sometimes I end going to a completely different session I hadn’t really thought about in advance. There’s something to be said for following your mood and going with the flow. Remember that genealogical serendipity can happen anywhere, any time.

And you know what? You really can’t go wrong. There’s no such thing as the wrong decision, because all the speakers are top-notch. So don’t sweat the choices too much. Just come and have fun!

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