Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fall Conference Keynote: Kids having fun.

Bret Petersen, Suzanne Curley and I gave a presentation at the recent UGA conference entitled "The Cool Parts of Family History-Kids Having Fun"  In it I was able to talk about my vision for how family history conferences need to change in the United States and why it is so important to involve youth in our family history efforts.  We had many requests for the recording so I put them up on Youtube.  Unfortunately the recording isn't so hot.  But I hope you can still hear it somewhat.

Suzanne gave a wonderful presentation with great ideas about what is happening around the world.  Unfortunately her portion of the video couldn't be recorded because of copyright permissions on some of the things she showed.  But Bret had some great ideas too:

Spectacular Successes, Learning from failures

Reprinted from The Chart Chick Blog

We say that Lincoln, Edison, etc had many spectacular failures and yet we know them to be spectacularly successful.  I think as I begin to finish up my 2 year tenure as president of the Utah Genealogical Association, we can see both in the innovative conference that UGA tried this fall too.

UGA's fall conference this year was both a spectacular success, and one of those experiences you learn alot from.  
  • Vendors were generally happy even though we put them up to a lot of extra work and had very few people there to pay them for it. Each had to have an activity booth and there were lots of great ideas they came up with.  There is alot of refinement to do there but I think we struck on an idea that was a win win for everyone.  Everyone especially loved Family Roots Publishing's free popcorn.  Thanks Leland!
  • Everyone loved the classes.  Bret Petersen did a great job of changing things up. He was a tireless conference organizer and I can't imagine anyone better suited to the task.  We had new people and new topics and all of the reviews were great.  
  • We really resonated with people.  During the Keynote Saturday morning (Recordings Posted to YouTube Here) I tried to explain our rationale for changing things up and why I'm so passionate about involving youth in genealogy.  We had person after person come up to us on Saturday and tell us that if that was what UGA was about, they wanted to be more involved.  I received some information a couple of weeks ago from a market analysis that Family Tree Magazine did. When asked what their goals were for their family history activities 85.1% said they wanted to record their family tree for posterity and 65.6 % to share their family tree with others.  We want to involve our families in our family history but we are having trouble figuring out how to do it without making their eyes gloss over. 
  • There were very few families who attended like we had hoped.  We've analyzed this and I think it comes down to a couple things.  I don't think anyone trusted us to make this entertaining enough for children.  And when I look at it--I think if I'd been on the other side, I would have had the same reaction.  Would a bunch of genealogists be able to come up with something my children would enjoy? or would they turn my kids off even more to something I so want them to love. Hopefully we gained some trust and began to turn the ship. 
What we learned:  We charged too much for families.  For the next time, everyone 18 and younger just need to be free.  In fact, across the board, throughout the genealogy community, for every event, 18 and younger just need to be free.  Also, you need to clearly label your youth activities.  We had lots of innovative classes but we should have labeled a "young and young at heart" track.  Likewise we needed shorter classes.  We knew that going in this time but weren't ready to change track quite that much.  But you do have to market to adults.  The kids won't come on their own, but they will have fun once they get there. 

On a personal level it was a spectacular success for my family.  I was able to spend the day with my kids rather than be away from them at another genealogy conference weekend.  There was little to no complaining which was a complete miracle.  They were genuinely happy to be there and enjoyed having their friends there to help them.  They had a fantastic opportunity to develop their communication skills and deal with the public.  In that--I am again continually amazed at the richness genealogy brings to the lives of my children.  Who would have thought they'd gain experience like that from family history.  I think it was good for them to watch their parents, and UGA try to change something in the world, and I personally enjoyed having them see so closely an issue that I care so deeply about.  I hope they will participate in helping me solve it.

UGA has seen some spectacular successes in the last several years.  Our membership continues to grow and grow.  Our board is young and dynamic (even those of us who are older are dynamic.) And we are trying things and moving along with the times.  I'm so proud of UGA and what we've been able to accomplish.  Board meeting is this weekend and I'm excited to see where we go next.  I hope you'll come help us move forward into the next successful things UGA decides to do.