|Genealogists for Families team T-shirt|
OK - here is my report - but first I want to thank Unlock the Past for all their hard work in organising such a big event. (Disclosure: Unlock the Past will pay me for the talk I gave on Tuesday, but that will not influence my comments here.)
I have previously talked about why I like genealogy conferences. During the Expo I heard many people say that they were having a great time and learning a lot. One lady even met two relatives whom she didn't know existed! Everybody enjoyed seeing old friends and meeting new ones. But were all the exhibitors happy? I suspect not, because attendance numbers were disappointing. Could local societies have done more to promote the event? I don't know. If I could turn back the clock, would I personally change what I did at the Expo? Definitely!
A few weeks ago I emailed hundreds of my clients in southeast Queensland and northern NSW to tell them about the Expo. Many replied that they would have come on a weekend, but not Monday to Wednesday because they work full-time. On Monday evening the Expo was open until 9:15 so people could come after work; but as far as I could tell, not many did. Maybe the weather had something to do with that. (Brisbane in June/July is usually gloriously sunny, but unfortunately this week was wet and cold.) Tuesday and Wednesday were busier, but some exhibitors still spent a lot of time trying to keep warm while waiting for people to visit their display.
The venue was better than I expected. The hall was set up with lots of space between the exhibits, and people could move around without bumping into others or knocking books off tables. With a large room and a high roof, noise levels were not a problem, so (thankfully) I did not lose my voice!
I may have been busier than some exhibitors because my table was at one end of the popular Research Help Zone. I thoroughly enjoyed helping people with their research problems, but it was quite challenging at times. My area of expertise is Queensland records, but about 30% of the questions I was asked involved New South Wales or Victoria. Having done some research in those States, I could at least offer a few suggestions and recommend various indexes, Web sites and professional genealogists. Occasionally I could send the enquirer around the corner to Kerry Farmer or Carole Riley, but they had other commitments most of the time.
Being on my own was not easy. Kerin Stinear and Sharn White (bless them) came over occasionally and kept an eye on my table while I dashed out for a bathroom break or a toasted sandwich. When it was time for my own talk, I had to politely abandon a lady who had just arrived with a long list of questions. In the lecture room, after I found my Powerpoint presentation on the computer, figured out how to turn on the projector and asked someone to put batteries in the remote control, I finally got underway. By then I was feeling a bit rattled, and my presentation of 'Black Sheep and Vanishing Relatives' was not up to my usual standard.
I don't know about the other exhibitors, but for me, from a business point of view, the Expo was not a success. With so many stands selling so many interesting items, competition was tough. I barely sold enough books to cover expenses for the three days.
From a personal point of view, I did enjoy the Expo, but I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had not been an exhibitor. I bought a Gold Ticket because I wanted to attend a few talks, but in the end I only made it to two. I could not bring myself to walk away when people were waiting to ask me questions!
The talks I did hear (both by Audrey Collins) were entertaining and informative. Audrey said that her blog, The Family Recorder, will soon have a page with links to hard-to-find UK newspaper sites. I envy those of you in southern States who can attend Audrey's seminars in the next few days.
It will be interesting to hear what others thought of the Expo. I know I missed some good talks, but it was fun to catch up with friends and colleagues, even if we only managed a quick chat. (Next time I'll do things differently so I have more time with you!)
Last but not least, a message for members of Genealogists for Families: If you meant to buy a team T-shirt but forgot, please email me!