I was a first time attendee at the FGS 2011 genealogy conference in Springfield, Illinois. I remember the excitement of being able to further my genealogical education. I went to the conference expecting just a learning experience, but received so much more than just education at the conference. Here are ten tips for first time attendees.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. There are wonderful people willing to help and answer questions for you. Conference check-in and sessions are well staffed.
- Strike up a conversation with other attendees. Conference attendees are warm, friendly people. I talked to one person from Pennsylvania. She lived in a county where I had Mennonite ancestors. She gave me new resources to explore.
- Be sure to visit the exhibit hall. I took one session time and used it just for browsing the exhibit hall. It was less crowded and I could take my time exploring the wonderful resources there.
- Buy early at the exhibit hall. If you see something you like, and want, at the exhibit hall, buy it. I waited to buy a book until the last day and when I went back, it was sold out.
- It's not scary to be a newbie. I thought I would feel overwhelmed and out of my element when I went to Springfield, but the opposite was true. I had a wonderful, first time experience.
- Arrive early to well-known speaker's sessions. Classes filled up early and they didn't allow standing room only, in Springfield. Thomas W. Jones and Elizabeth Shown Mills are popular speakers. I am sure there are others but these names come to mind.
- Leave the conference center and explore. Use one of your lunch times to explore the area around the conference center. See what the locals have to offer. Fort Wayne has the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center, a must see in Fort Wayne.
- Attend a social event. If your budget allows it, sign up for a social event or two. You will be seated with others who share your passion for genealogy and great conversations flow.
- Pack address labels and business cards. Address labels are great to keep you from having to write your contact information on prize drawings, which there are plenty, in the exhibit hall. Even if you don't have a business, business cards are a wonderful way to give your contact information to others. You never know when someone might have that one piece of information that could help you. Be sure to include your email address.
- Have fun! Take time to enjoy the experience. Talk to people, attend sessions, take pictures, and be social and you will remember your first time forever.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions. I look forward to seeing you in Fort Wayne.