Monday, June 12, 2017

Beyond What's Expected

It seems as if there is a tacit contract struck between conference organizers and potential attendees: "Come to our event," these planners imply, "And we will present you with useful learning opportunities."

For their own part, attendees supposedly register in the hopes that topics they want to learn will be covered adequately by speakers who will hold their interest. They register in faith that this is exactly what the outcome will be three, four or five months later, once the event for which they snagged "early bird" rates actually comes to pass.

And yet, sometimes I wonder if that is what conference-goers say they wish to receive, but not what they really want to get, once they arrive at the event. Maybe we don't really even know what we want when we sign on to attend a conference. Could there be an intended "contract" for attendance, while beneath the surface, there is a hidden, wished-for outcome?

Some may find that presumed contract is never consummated, of course. Witness those who fail to return in subsequent years, perhaps owing to disappointment over understandings left unfulfilled.

Some, of course, do return—often, year after year—demonstrating by their presence that they are satisfied with the planners' outcomes.

In some rare instances, though, the deliverables are so far beyond what's expected, it leaves a satisfied customer wishing for a megaphone to metaphorically shout their recommendations from the rooftops.

I'll satisfy myself with simply mentioning an unexpectedly pleasing outcome from Jamboree on today's post here at A Family Tapestry.

Granted, you may be too far away to attend the yearly Jamboree, put on by the Southern California Genealogical Society in Burbank every June. Perhaps you even live too far away to ever catch a session by this particular speaker I first heard this past weekend. But in case you ever cross paths with this researcher, you need to take the time to listen.

When I decided to make this speaker's session my first of the morning on Saturday, I must have been in a much more energized frame of mind. Come Saturday morning, I was in no mood to do anything at 8:30, let alone face a group of chirpy genealogists eagerly awaiting perhaps the first day of their Jamboree experience. After all, attendees are given the choice of registering for each day's events, or the whole Jamboree conference—or super size it by adding on the prequel DNA Day on Thursday, as well. I had chosen the extended version, and restless nights of sleep in an unfamiliar hotel room since Wednesday night hadn't done much to augment my learning readiness, come Saturday.

Then, too, I had gotten this inkling of a déjà vu experience from last year—reading workshop titles and thinking the class would address one topic, when it turned out to cover something entirely different. I had run across a few experiences like that already, this year, too.

So, what the speaker ended up doing with a title like the one on Saturday morning might be just what I hoped for—or it might take a totally different direction.

I'm glad I decided to attend the class, mood and lack of coffee or not. The session, "Descendancy Research: Another Pathway to Genealogy," did not disappoint.

Um, let me restate that: Michael L. Strauss' hour on Saturday morning left me wishing he was afforded much more time than that fleeting hour. The way he covered his topic was masterful. Inspiring. Powerful. It left me thinking, "Now, how did you do that?"

It was not just the topic itself—basically his rationale for hearkening back to the old way of doing genealogy, what we so naively dub now as "reverse genealogy"—but the way he presented his argument that made the difference. Slow and steady, he pieced together his case. He wrapped it around a story—about tracing other branches of his family to find living descendants, and what became of his pursuit of these previously unknown family members—and kept the audience's attention so wrapped up in the details that, surprise, the hour was over in moments.

Of course, it never hurts when a speaker is personally vested in the topic. More so, when that speaker goes beyond the academic to the realm of heartfelt commitment. In this hour, though, we were treated to goose-bump inspiring episodes—those moments of intangible connection so far beyond academic recitation as to be nearly other-worldly.

The result, for those who witnessed that Saturday morning transformation from mere "conference speaker" to masterful motivator, was far beyond the tacit understanding expected between conference organizers and their customers.

The receipt of their deliverables by those witnessing the unfolding of such an inspiring presentation may have been unexpected in its impact, but it will go far in encouraging those of us in attendance to keep coming back for more. After all, what's a conference for, if it doesn't exceed expectations and provide us the encouragement we need for another year?


  1. Good for you! I am glad it exceeded your expectations!

    1. It's always nice to come away from a conference with that sort of experience!


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