What about a networked conference?

I am attending my first large genealogy conference when I head to RootsTech in a couple of weeks. I’ve watched broadcasted presentations from a number of conferences and enjoyed them tremendously, but I am so looking forward to seeing and hugging people I’ve known for years yet never met face-to-face. This RootsTech will probably also be the last big conference I attend unless one is scheduled within driving distance of my home. The cost and aggravation of flying these days means I’m not going to do any more of it than I absolutely have to.

Has anyone considered the idea of a networked conference? Instead of having a conference in one place, set it up in several regional locations. Presenters would attend at their closest location and each presentation is broadcast live to the other sites. This would provide plenty of personal interaction at a smaller scale that could lead to even more engagement. It would also allow distant participants to participate in Q&A sessions and even discussions. With the growth of distance learning classrooms, it’s quite possible that regional groups could use resources at educational institutions rather than large conference centers.

Another thought is to focus on research with each regional site located near a significant archive/library and attendees could attend the location with the records related to the people or events they want to research. Local presenters could discuss local topics while other speakers discussing broader topics are presented as broadcasts. This type of conference wouldn’t need as many presenters since the majority of the time would be spent in the archives.

And, while we are taking advantage of the opportunities new technologies provide, it’s time to take a look at the presentation itself. I watch in wonder and admiration as Pat Richley (a.k.a. DearMYRTLE) turns a webinar with hundreds of participants into a living room conversation. Pat keeps multiple speakers on topic and asks the questions presented by the audience with a grace and style that makes every participant feel like he/she is the center of attention. Yes, this can be done in a public venue, but it is most effective in a virtual one.

I’m looking forward to seeing a number of new and exciting ways to connect using the growing number of affordable tech tools and platforms and I’m delighted to see how well the genealogy community adapts to these new capabilities.

What do you want to see in conferences of the future?

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