With the conclusion of the FGS 2008 conference in Philadelphia, there's been a lot of talk lately about the high cost of attending national conferences. It's a very valid concern. In the most recent Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast I discussed my own outrage at the convention center hotel charging $10 a day for Internet access, and how surprised I was to find that in order to have use of a refrigerator in my room I would have to rent it!
I went without the fridge, and ended up spending something like $4 for each soda in the conference exhibit hall. That on top of airfare, a "discounted" rate of $189 per night (only to find out they add $22 per day in tax to that), transportation, a hefty conference entrance fee etc. and you find that you have quickly dropped a good chunk of change.
My observation was that it was the exhibit hall vendors who paid the price, faced with reduced sales because attendees had spent their wad. I also wonder if FGS paid somewhat of a price this year. I heard unconfirmed estimates of about 700 in attendance which according to some very reliable sources is about half of what they have had in good years in the past.
As top notch as the conference was, when I got home I asked myself, "would I go again next year?" At this point I can't really say. I sure would like to because it's going to be held in Little Rock, Arkansas, and I have a lot of research I could do there. And the speakers and vendors will of course be top notch. But it is a very expensive venture.
As Jim Beidler, chair of this year's FGS conference pointed out in my interview with him (which you will be able to hear on Monday when Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 51 is published), the real benefit to these conferences is that it's "networking on steroids." It certainly was for me. And I loved it. But is networking a top goal for most attendees? Does the Internet offer alternative low cost ways to network? (Just look at the recent genealogy explosion on Facebook!)
During the plane ride back my thoughts drifted back to the other national conferences I attended this last year in St. George and Ogden, Utah. They were bustling with conference-goers; my Genealogy Gems exhibit hall booth was always busy! And the costs involved were much more down to earth: $89 / night for pleasant, clean hotels with FREE Internet access and in-room refrigerators very close to the convention hall...$65 early bird entrance fee to the conference. You just can't beat the value for the money you invest.
Riding on the huge success of their Expos, My Ancestors Found , the organizers, have decided to take the plunge and change their name to Family History Expos. It's a great move because they are so good at what they do, and this name makes it crystal clear.
I have a special place for Holly and her team in my heart because about a year ago they reached out to me and invited me to participate in their exhibit hall. The next conference they invited me to speak, and our relationship has grown from there. They are so kind, and so friendly and you see it in everything they do. Family History Expos radiate fun and excitement!
And what's even more exciting now is with the new name is also coming a new website, a new podcast, and soon videocasts. Their new home is now http://www.familyhistoryexpos.com/. There you can check out the brand new Family History Expos Genealogy Podcast. Listen to DearMYRTLE interview upcoming Expo speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors. You'll also find the Family History Expos Genealogy Blog where you will learn about upcoming Expos and discuss the possibility of new locations to be considered for an Expo. They welcome your feedback!
And I'm especially excited to be working with them to soon be bringing you Family History Expos TV. You'll be able to watch online videos spotlighting segments of Family History Expos ~ past, present, & future. Be sure and stop by the TV Booth (next to the Genealogy Gems Podcast booth) and check out what we're up to at the Family History Expo in Mesa, AZ on November 14, & 15, 2008.
So even though the name has changed, you will still see a lot of familiar faces, and you'll likely have more dough left in your wallet!