Thought-provoking advice for conference organizers and speakers

I like to attend genealogy conferences to learn and network and, this fall, I plan to speak at one. That is why librarian Mary Ellen Bates’ Conference Manifesto caught my eye. She tells conference organizers and speakers that the traditional conference is going away “because it is no longer serving its purpose.” She says that those who attend conferences are no longer willing to “passively” listen to speakers talk about what they know.

One of the reasons for this change is that we are now able to learn and share knowledge from a variety of sources. As genealogists, we learn daily from webinars, podcasts, blogs, and Facebook groups.

Genealogist Amy Coffin in her blog, The We Tree Genealogy Blog, compares the genealogy field to the library field and comes to the conclusion that both fields incorporate new ideas at different speeds. Without being specific, she writes, “The issues the library field is talking about right now are what the genealogy field will be talking about down the road.” She has also noticed that the two fields have different speeds in conference planning. “Trends are changing overall, but they haven’t trickled down to the genealogy world yet.”

So, what should conference organizers and speakers do? Ms. Bates offers the following advice.

  1. Engage the participants.
  2. Address what the audience cares about. Make the conference relevant to the audience today.
  3. Lectures and panels can be deadly. Attendees want to be provoked. They want a speaker who will make them think differently.
  4. No speaker needs more than 45 minutes. Bring speakers who want to challenge the audience.
  5. Expect more from your speaker. Can they provoke comment? Do they invite participant involvement?
  6. Make it worth their while. The audience wants something they can take back and put into action.

Read the entire Conference Manifesto here:

Amy Coffin’s blog post on this subject is available here:

About Gail Dever

Gail Dever is a Montreal-based genealogist and blogger and a webmaster for the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa.
This entry was posted in Conferences, Societies and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s