The winner of the next ThinkGenealogy Innovator award has been doing some exciting things in the area of genealogy conferences. That might not be an area that we normally associate with innovation, but that is precisely what Family History Expos, Inc. has been doing.
Before Family History Expos (formerly My Ancestors Found) started doing conferences in 2005, the two main options were attending a national conference or one sponsored by a local or regional genealogical society. Over the last few years, FHExpos has organized conferences in an increasing number of locations including, Utah, California, Colorado, and Arizona. This year they will also host conferences in Missouri and Georgia.
Their model is to find interesting presenters that are willing to share their family history knowledge in exchange for admission to the conference. This keeps the price of the 2-day conference to around $70 dollars which is a bargain for the approximately 1000 attendees that register for each conference. In addition to two full days of presentations with multiple sessions each hour, there is a top-notched exhibit hall that is free to the public.
I must disclose at this point that I have attended 3 of these expos as a presenter and at this last conference hosted a Scouting heritage booth with space donated by another vendor. I feel that this has given me an inside view at these conferences and how Holly Hansen & crew are able to put on a quality expo.
The use of technology in connection with these expos is the main reason for awarding the Innovator award to Family History Expos. You can connect with FHExpos through their website, Facebook fan page, Twitter account, LinkedIn, and on GenealogyWise. Before the expo, a handful of bloggers are asked to help promote the conference and to tweet and blog about the conference as it is happening. For the Arizona Family History Expo held last month, I was was asked to be one of these “Bloggers of Honor” and was asked to attend a dinner so that I could answer questions from those at my table about what blogging is all about. At no time was I told what to write about or expected to present anything from a viewpoint other than my own. There is a also a Twitter Cafe where these bloggers can connect to the internet and write about the conference. There is a projection screen setup so that any tweets about the conference can be seen by attendees.
FHExpos is a good example to other conferences. Maybe one of the best ways this is shown is through their Twitter & Social Networking policy. Many presenters are concerned about attendees recording their presentations or posting their handouts online. This concern has grown with the popularity of blogs and Twitter. Other conferences that I have attended do not have a clear policy of what is acceptable.
Before a Family History Expo, the presenters are notified of the conference’s policy on recording, blogging, Twitter, and social networking. For some presenters, this is an opportunity to learn about the advantages of attendees using these technologies and to be reassured that their content will be protected. This same policy is available on the FHExpos website and in the conference materials passed out to each attendee. Before each class, the person introducing the speaker reminds the attendees about the policy. This goes a long way to set expectations so that everyone knows what is acceptable and what is not. I had an experience at one conference where no guidelines were given and I kept notes via Twitter. It didn’t occur to me until after the conference, that I was probably too verbose in my coverage of the presentations.
Here is copy of the policy used by Family History Expos:
Recording, Twitter, Blogging, and Social Networking Policy
Family History Expos does not allow recording of presentations under any circumstances. When sessions are professionally recorded you will be able to purchase a copy from Family History Expos or a designated vendor.
Family History Expos encourages the use of Twitter at Expos. Please tweet the highlights of classes attended; however it is not appropriate to give full details of class materials presented.
When beginning a session of tweets give credit and use Expo hashtag “#fhexpo” within each tweet. Example of appropriate tweeting:
1. Arizona Family History Expo sponsored by Family History Expos, Inc. and others. #fhexpo #genealogy #familyhistory
2. Presenter name, class title #fhexpo
3. Information on a point being made #fhexpo
4. Helpful or new URL being discussed #fhexpo
5. Questions or comments made by attendees in class #fhexpo
Family History Expos invites bloggers to take time to give thoughtful insights, meaningful descriptions, and exercise professional courtesy when blogging about specific presentations. Please give proper citation to presentations you attend and cover in your blog.
The use of social networks, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and GenealogyWise, is fun and exciting. We enjoy using them and hope that you do too. However, it is important to remember that our presenters invest tremendous amounts of time developing their presentations, strategies, methodologies, and research guidance. They spend years gaining education and expertise on the subjects they teach.
We request that the intellectual and real property developed by Family History Expos and our presenters be respected and credit be appropriately given.
Copyright to all class presentations, recordings, and syllabus materials belong to Family History Expos and its presenters by agreement of said parties.
I look forward to additional innovation by Family History Expos and expect that other conferences will soon define their own policies on the use of social networking.