Tim Cox sent this report from last month's Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree:
I planned my vacation around this year’s 40th Anniversary Jamboree, June 26-28, 2009. It was my first genealogy conference and I was so excited I decided to arrive a day early and to stay an extra night to catch up on my rest before heading home. Wise move on my part, I really needed it!
Before going, I followed the Jamboree blog that Paula Hinkel publishes – she and Leo Myers co-chair the event. One blog post was a call for volunteers to introduce the seminar speakers. I'd heard that classes fill up quickly so I figured if I was arriving early to introduce the speaker, I’d be guaranteed a seat. I responded with a list of the classes I wanted to attend and received confirmation for fifteen. WHEW!! I had my classes confirmed and would be introducing some of my genealogy idols! WOW! This was going to be so much fun!
Friday morning I arrived at the exhibit hall, found table #114 – among the sea of tables all draped with black linen – and sat down and looked around the huge room. The California Genealogical Society table was placed against one wall. To our right was the Immigrant Genealogical Society; to our left was lecturer Tony Burroughs who was a sharing with the National Institute of Genealogical Studies. Directly across was Ancesty.com and Family Roots Publishing with Leland Meitzler and Bill Dollarhide – a perfect high-traffic area.
Then it happened! Genealogy celebraties were coming in to set up their tables: Maureen Taylor, Lisa Louise Cooke, Leland Meitzler, Bill Dollarhide, Arlene Eakle, George G. Morgan, Dick Eastman, Dear Myrtle, Drew Smith. One by one they walked by. I was in heaven but I was way too nervous to say anything so I just took photos. It was still early and the exhibit hall was not open yet. I was in awe! These are accomplished genealogists! I’m in the company of these people. Call 911!
Luckily I snapped out of it so we could set up our table. We had membership brochures, fliers of some upcoming events and research trips, assorted candy, and books for sale. We also debuted the Tip of the Iceberg poster.
Diagonally from our table was the New England Historic Genealogical Society. It was really weird to see Chris Child and Michael Leclerc in person because we had their photos on the fliers for the upcoming "NEHGS Comes West" weekend at CGS in October.
Over the three days these CGS members rotated shifts to cover the table: Carolyn Steinberg, Kathryn Doyle, Ron Filion, Pamela Storm, Marston Watson, Geri Willinger, and Arlene Folker. I’m so glad they shared part of their weekend with me.
Introducing the speakers turned out to be a lot of fun. I was surprised to learn that there was more than just a short bio – they gave us a page and a half of ads to read, in addition to the speaker’s bio! I finally started asking the audience to participate and evidently they loved it. I found out I received several great reviews on the evaluation cards.
As it turned out, I didn’t do all the introductions I was assigned because some SCGS board members wanted to do some. That freed me up to shop, mingle, and visit. I realized after the first day that there was no way I could sit in class all day and not be able to network.
I attended the two Jamboee dinners. Friday night I enjoyed listening to Tukufu Zuberi from the PBS series: History Detectives. Saturday night's speaker was David Rencher who discussed the comical side of genealogy.
In all, the conference had over 1,500 attendees, from as far away as Tel Aviv. I was in awe at how well it was planned, managed and executed! Leo Myers and Paula Hinkel and the Southern California Genealogical Society really know how to put on a great event.
What was most interesting, though, was a personal choice I made. Instead of just passively attending classes and working at the table, I made a point of introducing myself and meeting people. I knew them already through the internet and podcasts, blogs, mailing lists, and other networking sites, I just hadn't ever met them face-to-face. This made my first conference so much better because I didn't feel alone or like I didn’t know anyone. So, if you are not sure about going to a conference because you think you don’t know anyone, you’re wrong. You know a lot of people there, you just haven’t met them face to face!
Maybe sometime in the near future I can work with someone to begin the discovery process of organizing a conference up here in Northern California. It will take us a few years to match the excellence of the Jamboree '09, but we can come pretty darn close! Anyone up for the challenge?