Monday, August 25, 2014

Plan Your Schedule for the #FGS2014 Conference

The Ancestry Insider is an ambassador for the FGS 2014 annual conferenceIt’s official! I’m now an ambassador for this week’s 2014 annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. You can find me on a list of the ambassadors along with rather awesome fellow bloggers.

If you’ve pre-registered for the conference, now’s the time to download the syllabus from the conference website. This will enhance both your preparation and attendance at the conference.

Now’s the time to put together your initial plan of sessions to attend and the syllabus can be instrumental. There are several ways to create your schedule.

One approach is to use the scheduling features of the FGS Conference website. This approach works only if you pre-registered. Login and select “Plan Your Sessions.” (The button is underneath your registration.) Go through each day and each class period, selecting the desired class for each period. When ready, print your itinerary and, from the syllabus, print the handouts for each class.

Another approach is to use the FGS Smartphone App. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get the “My Schedule” feature to work, but maybe it will work for you. Even still, the app gives a convenient place to see which sessions are available each class period. The app also includes maps, exhibitor directory, and speaker bios. It’s a lot like the conference guide you’ll receive at check-in, but it doesn’t weigh anything. It is available for both iOS phones and for Android phones.

A third approach is to go old school. This works for anyone, whether or not you pre-registered. View the schedule online at Add the classes you wish to attend to whatever calendar application you normally use.

When you are unsure among class alternatives, the syllabus comes in very handy. Compare the handouts among the classes. As I’ve said before, (see “#NGS2014GEN Planning Your Time at a Conference”):

Handouts show different levels of preparation, organization, educational skills, presentation skills, and presenter qualifications. I can usually decide among sessions based on the handouts.

  • Sometimes a handout communicates a topic so well, I opt for another session!
  • Sometimes a handout makes it clear what the skill level of the presentation will be and I can tell if I will be learning new material.
  • Sometimes a handout contains a small outline filling less than the allotted four pages. I assume the presenter didn’t have the discipline to prepare his handout until just before the deadline. I usually skip these sessions.
  • Sometimes a handout consists of a four-page bibliography. It reflects the presenter’s extensive library of the best texts collected over an entire career. I can understand how this is valuable for some people. I personally don’t derive a great amount of value from it. I’ll never buy or read that amount of material for a single subject. Give me a list of the sources used for the session, but highlight a handful of the most valuable. A strictly bibliographic handout makes it difficult to judge the value of a session. The presenter is probably an expert, but it is impossible to judge their skills as an educator.
  • Sometimes a session lacks a handout, demonstrating the presenter’s lack of respect for attendees. I avoid these sessions when I can. Unfortunately, since the Ancestry Insider’s editorial focus is and FamilySearch, I should attend their sessions. presenters and FamilySearch product managers are among the worst offenders, for which I’m sorely ashamed. Their marketing departments pay big bucks to sponsor conferences, which gives them maybe a single page in the syllabus. Yet they regularly pass up the opportunity to get a four-page handout in the hands of self-selected interested users? Unbelievable.

To download the syllabus, visit, click on Registration, and sign in with your Username and Password. Click on “Download your syllabus” in the red rectangle at the top of your screen.

See you in San Antonio!

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