Two weeks ago I attended the Genealogy and Family Heritage Jamboree held in St. George, Utah. This jamboree did one thing that is non-traditional for genealogy conferences although common elsewhere: the conference syllabus was available on CD-ROM or (optionally) printed on paper.
Most genealogy conferences publish the conference syllabuses as thick printed booklets. These things are expensive to publish and, of course, that expense is passed on to the conference attendees in one form or another. Some conference attendees love the syllabuses and use them heavily. Others seem to ignore them.
At the St. George conference, the CD-ROM version was given to all attendees at no extra charge. If you really wanted a printed version, there was an extra charge that was approximately the same price as getting an electronic syllabus printed at the local Kinko's store. In fact, I think that's what the conference organizers did. They had Kinko's print exactly the number of syllabuses requested on paper, then passed on the printing expense to those who wanted the paper versions.
Two weeks earlier I attended the (non-genealogy related) 2006 Internet Telephony Conference & Expo East in Fort Lauderdale. This was a four-day industry conference with about 1,000 attendees. The conference syllabus was given to each attendee on CD-ROM (only). Other non-genealogy conferences I have attended in the past also produce their syllabuses on CD-ROM disks. The only place where I still see a printed syllabus is at some genealogy conferences.
I will suggest that publishing the syllabus on CD is an excellent idea. It is far cheaper, and the cost savings can be passed on to the attendees in the form of lower admission. I prefer the CD-ROM version because it is lighter to carry around and to pack in my suitcase and easier to store when I return home. I know that I will keep the St. George syllabus on CD on my shelf for many years, something that I do not do with printed syllabuses. I simply don't have the room for paper!
Anyone who wants the old-fashioned paper version of a syllabus should pay for the additional expense. Why penalize everyone? Anyone who wishes a printed copy can easily print pages themselves when they return home or at a local Kinko's or similar store.
By the way, those who did not attend the recent Genealogy and Family Heritage Jamboree in St. George, Utah can still purchase the syllabus on CD-ROM for $9.50 at http://www.myancestorsfound.com/jamboree/jamboree.htm.
I would suggest that all conference organizers purchase a copy to see what "the competition" is doing. I also would strongly suggest that all genealogy conference organizers publish their syllabus on CD at their next conference. They can offer two options: regular attendance includes a syllabus on CD at no extra charge while the syllabus on paper is available for an extra $20.00 or so. A day or two before the conference opens, go to Kinko's or a similar store and have the print versions made for the smaller number of attendees who paid the extra price.
What do you think?