Over the years, I have attended hundreds of genealogy seminars on a wide variety of topics. However, last week I attended one that was a bit different. I never left my home. Instead, I "attended" by telephone and computer. It worked well.
Seminars by telephone conference calls have been around for some time but have never achieved much popularity. Now Sharon Sergeant of Ancestral Manor has been organizing a new series of genealogy conferences that seem to draw larger audiences. The teleconference that I attended last week had about a dozen attendees. It was presented in more or less the same manner as an "in person" seminar: a moderator introduced the evening's guest lecturer, a presentation was made (complete with slides), and a lively question-and-answer period followed. In fact, on the session that I attended, the question-and-answer period lasted significantly longer than the presentation itself.
The particular seminar that I attended was one of several presented in conjunction with TIARA, The Irish Ancestral Research Association. In this session, Mary Ellen Grogan spoke on Using Maps in Irish Research. I must say that I learned quite a bit about Irish boundaries and where to find maps of townlands, church parishes, and registrar districts. Some of the available Irish maps will even show every house and cottage, something I never knew before.
Mary Ellen Grogan's handouts were sent to every participant ahead of time by e-mail. The slides were in PDF format, which most people can view on any Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer. Each attendee viewed the slides on his or her own computer as Mary Ellen spoke. That's a rather low-tech method of handling presentation slides, but also very effective.
Each participant dialed a telephone number at the appointed time and then entered an access code that had been sent to us earlier in e-mail. We were then placed into a common conference "room" where each participant could hear everyone else. The following two hours were informal and educational.
The telephone number was not a toll-free number. However, I use a VoIP telephone that places long distance calls across the Internet; so, the teleconference was a free call for me. Actually, I pay a fixed amount each month for the Internet phone service, so I guess that it really was not free but was "at no additional charge." (Someday I will write about making free phone calls on the Internet.)
Most of the teleconferences being organized by Ancestral Manor have a fee of $15.00. You need to add in the cost of the telephone call as well. The total price probably is less than what you would pay for attendance fee plus travel expenses to attend an equivalent "in person" seminar in your area. Travel time and expense is essentially zero at a teleconference. Of course, the teleconferences have the advantage that you can attend dressed in your "jammies," something I haven't seen at in-person seminars. I think the informal dress code is one of the biggest attractions!
You must sign up for each teleconference several days in advance and pay the registration fee. The telephone number, access code, and presentation slides are then sent to you a few hours before the appointed time of the teleconference.
All in all, genealogy seminars by teleconference appears to be a cost-effective and very effective method of conducting genealogy seminars. I enjoyed last week's session and hope to attend some more.
Sharon Sergeant has a lot of genealogy seminars planned in the future, covering a wide variety of subjects. You can learn more about future seminars at http://ancestralmanor.com if you click on "Teleconference Seminars."