Monday, September 10, 2012

Becoming Engaging

Why call it a genealogy conference? Why not do something radically different next year to engage participants? Really try to blow things out of the water, so to speak? Set RootsTech on its ear!
How about calling it the 'XYZ" society's MEGA FAMILY HISTORY WORKSHOP or something radically different? A catchy new title will mark the departure from the old, stodgy (read that boring) lecture format. "Workshop" implies active learning, particularly more so when compared to the word "conference".

Cease calling us presenters, instead use the term moderator. That distinction gives promise of group interaction.

Make sessions 90-120 minutes. Dedicate 1/2 the time to "slides" interwoven with detailed Q & A and demos. Why not learn one thing well, rather than two poorly in fast-forward mode?  Creative, confident, well-informed moderators can handle this "flying by the seat of their pants".

Ask participants in advance to bring something to share. The moderator will pick 3-4 that are particularly appropriate. It isn't about the "instructor" looking good, it's about class participants seeing other folks they may know who are making progress in their family history work. Use a timer and gong (or cow bell) to keep the sharing time moving along.

Poll the participants. Q & A don't have to come from participants, moderators can involve participants by asking questions like:
  • How many use this site? Any breakthroughs?
  • Who might consider changing to this software? Why?

Take a ten minute break or two. This invites conversations in small groups, and give the moderator time to preview a few "share" items brought by participants.

Brainstorm. Differing points of view and a variety of user experiences enhance participants' exposure to new concepts.

Advertise the use of hash tags, and appoint a participant to interject with comments from the feed. This provides real-time feedback for moderators and takes into account those who are too shy to raise their hand during the session.
Provide free wifi so all participants can use their laptops and tablets.  This encourages "following along" as a website is demonstrated. Active, hands-on learning doesn't require venue-provided equipment.

Team Teaching. Not a roundtable, not a panel - just two instructors playing a friendly game of racketball with everyone in the room. One can demo, while the other walks the room, judging the responses, providing interaction from Twitter feed, aiding internet exploration if that's the topic, cajoling participation from even the most reluctant person in the room. Then switch roles to mix it up for the next talking point.

Let's engage in conversations, rather than lecturing.
A genealogy conference is no longer about reading a "scientific paper" behind a podium with a few slides on the screen -- it's about exploring research techniques together, comparing notes on record groups, sharing the latest "how-to" resources and, to quote Linda McCauley's blog title, Documenting the Details.

What other "crazy" ideas would work?
Happy family tree climbing! 
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Twitter: @DearMYRTLE
G+: +Pat Richley-Erickson
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