Saturday, May 20, 2017
That Conference-Going Mood
Just one week ago was the annual conference put on by the National Genealogical Society. It was in Raleigh, North Carolina. I wasn't.
I had a friend who got to attend. She had a fabulous time, connecting with friends she hadn't seen in years. I was jealous. The moment she got back home, I plied her with questions over lunch—my desperate attempt to feel like she had stuffed me into her suitcase and brought me along.
So alright, then. I'll get my chance when I head south—on my side of the continent—to attend the conference of the Southern California Genealogical Society. It's my favorite. I've been to every one since they've added the ISOGG-inspired DNA Day five years ago.
Two days ago, I got my registration confirmation in the mail, so that mood is ramping up. This year, the SCGS Jamboree has added half-day workshops for those of us who prefer to go in-depth into specialized topics, and would rather get our learning in a hands-on format. No surprise that I'll be zeroing in on a DNA workshop for that extra Friday morning session.
Like my friend who attended the NGS conference earlier this month, I've come to realize that conferences add more value to their attendees than just the sum total of the material learned in each workshop session. Conferences are a time to make new connections with like-minded people, but also a time to be exposed to people and ideas quite different than those to which we are accustomed. As we broaden our experiences, we expand our capacity to learn.
Those learning opportunities, however, are partially uncharted. An adventure, our path through the conference jungle can take off in any direction. The syllabus may be charted, but what we take away with us, as we exit the workshop room, can be vastly different than what the person seated next to us may have discovered.
More than that, the face to face encounters come with no map. There are so many possibilities to meet someone—a distant cousin, someone from our hometown, a researcher fascinated by the same minutiae that have consumed us this past year—but when we all enter the registration lobby on that first morning, we have no idea what is in store for us among those hundreds of fellow-attendees. The only way to discover a connection may be to reach out and talk to a stranger.
A terrifying thought, indeed.
Just over two weeks from today, I'll be driving down to Burbank, California, to attend DNA Day and Jamboree. Three weeks from tomorrow, I'll be wrapping up my last post from Jamboree for another year. Yep, it will be over just as quickly as that.
What happens in between those two days, though, can be maximized with some careful planning—selecting which sessions to attend, strategizing with those I'd like to see while there—but will also need a strong dash of go-with-the-flow and improvisation. Yes, I'll connect via social media and the conference app, but I've got to rev up that adventurous spirit to just get out there and say "hi" to a bunch of strangers—who just happen to find the very topic I love, genealogy, as fascinating as I do.