You can enjoy a virtual genealogy conference nearly as much as attending a live event if you know how to participate to the fullest. In fact, the culture of a webinar involves more interactivity and may become a favorite learning environment between events.
Plan to Interact During a Virtual Genealogy Conference
If you are attending a virtual genealogy conference or a webinar, then plan to interact. Not all webinars and online family history events allow for an open chat, so you may not have a fully-immersive interactive experience. However, you do not have to wait until the end of a session to participate.
In traditional live learning environments, asking your questions, sharing your comments, and appreciating a speaker’s top points becomes relegated to the Q&A segment if one exists.
Not so in virtual events. You can respond at any time during a virtual genealogy conference. But before we share times to follow when you attend, let’s cover a few other ground rules to enhance your experience.
Five Tips to Enhance Your Next Virtual Genealogy Conference Experience
I’ve included five tips that will help you to participate in a virtual conference, especially one organized by Family History Fanatics, without the frustration.
1. Read Your Confirmation Email
After you register, you will receive an email with details about the online genealogy conference including the schedule, log in details, and how to access handouts.
If you have any questions, email the conference organizers before the event. Clear things up before the live sessions so you can relax and enjoy the learning.
2. Watch for Follow-Up Emails
As the conference approaches, you’ll receive event reminders. Do not ignore these emails as some changes may occur.
The follow-up emails will likely contain your handouts prior to the live sessions. For instance, all Family History Fanatics eConference and eWorkshop attendees typically receive their handouts:
one week in advance for early registrations.
the day before an event for those you register the week prior to said event.
Other virtual conferences handle handouts differently, but your pre-event emails should explain how to access them.
After the event, you should receive a follow-up email with links to the replays. Check the expiration dates on the replays to ensure you have plenty of time to watch before you can no longer access the sessions.
The replay links benefit individuals who can not attend live due to time differences, work or family constraints and the like. You do not have to miss skip a virtual event just because you can not attend live.
3. Chat DURING the class
If your conference allows live chats during each session, then follow these tips for having the best interactive experience. (If your live event does not allow for open chat and interactivity, then register for a Family History Fanatics eConferences instead.)
Log-in to the sessions and then introduce yourself.
Tell people your name and where you’re from.
Example: “Howdy. I’m Devon Lee from Texas!”
Share why you’re excited to be attending and what you hope to learn.
Example: “I love Amy! She’s so knowledgeable. I’m hoping to learn tips that will help me with researching my female ancestors.”
React to the presenter throughout the session.
Share what parts you especially like.
Example: “I really love how you said you liked small courthouses because they let you touch the books!”
Mention what you don’t understand.
Example: “Can you repeat the resource you used for searching manuscript collections across the country?
Ask questions as you think of them rather than saving them for the end.
Add “Question” or “Q” in front of your question to help it stand out for the moderator.
Example: QUESTION: “You said DNA triangulation helps to decide which ancestors are really my genetic ancestors. Are Ancestry ThruLines the same as triangulation?”
Share links to resources the presenter should add to their recommendation links.
Example: “Eric – I’m pleased with the services at https://photosmoviesmore.com for outsourcing my digitization projects. They’re similar to the companies you featured.”
4. Respond to others
One of the best aspects of a virtual event is the ability to interact with other attendees during the workshop. You can respond to other’s questions, ‘laugh’ at comments, and so on.
If you do not enjoy seeing this interaction during the session, you can always close or minimize the chatbox and focus on the presenter.
Unfortunately, many webinars and online learning events do not allow you to see the comments contributed by others. What a shame! This interaction is the special ingredient that compensates for the lack of in-person discussions.
If you attend a conference similar to a Family History Fanatics Virtual Genealogy Conference, then follow these best practices when interacting with others during the live events. (This does not apply to replays.)
Be social! If you know a fellow attendee, feel free to say hello during the introduction period.
Example: “FHFanatics – It’s so good to see you. Where are your kids while you’re learning today?”
If you know an answer to a fellow attendee’s question, feel free to answer while the speaker is speaking.
Example: “FHFanatics – to answer your question about researching Amish Ancestors, the FamilySearch Wiki has a great article to get you started. familysearch.org/wiki/en/Mennonites”
If you have a similar question or experience that another attendee shares in chat, let them know.
Example: “FHFanatics – Me too! I thought I was the only one with boring ancestors. We’re kindred spirits!”
5. Resolve Technical Issues
Computer issues do crop up during live learning sessions. There are several things that you can do to ensure that you are not the source of your technical issues. Follow these steps before you tell the virtual genealogy conference moderate that you are experiencing technical difficulties.
Before the event, make sure you have the updated version of whatever platform the conference is using.
Some conferences use Zoom, and you want to download the updates the day before your event.
The Family History Fanatics virtual events do not require you to download any software. Do update your computer operating system and your browser the day before the live session.
Ensure you have a high-speed internet connection and/or enough data to watch the videos.
During the event,
Close all other programs on your computer or device.
Make sure you only have one window of the live stream open.
Make sure your speakers or headphones are properly selected on your computer and turned up.
If your computer freezes,
Refresh your browser.
Close your browser and sign in again.
If after you have attempted these things and you are still experiencing technical issues, then let the moderator know in chat.
Organizers will then wait to see if other attendees experience the same issue. If others chime in and mention they have the same problem, the moderator will work to resolve the problems on their end.
In the case of catastrophic computer failures or power outages during a live event on the presenter or moderators end, know that most virtual genealogy conference event planners will ensure you receive value.
For Family History Fanatics, we once had a major computer crash due to storms and a power surge that prevented the event from continuing. We recorded the remainder of the speaker’s presentations the following week and released these recordings to our attendees. The live stream aspect was removed but the value was still delivered.
Participate in a Virtual Event Today
The range of choices to attend virtual genealogy conferences, or webinars, workshops, and boot camps has exploded in recent years. However, not all events offer the same value. Find the ones that offer the nearest in-person like educational experience for a good price. (Free doesn’t always mean high quality).
Visit the FHF eConference Site for the latest workshops and virtual genealogy conferences that we coordinate. We started coordinating live events in 2016 and have a high rate of return participants you sign-up as soon as we announce another event. We want to help you have the best online learning experience ever.