If you have been reading this newsletter in the past few days, you already know that I am attending and speaking at the Australasian Federation of Family History Societies Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry being held in Auckland, New Zealand. The Congress continued today with four to five simultaneous tracks of presentations most all day. One thing caught my eye today as a technological marvel and greatly impressed me. I would suggest that future conference organizers worldwide should consider doing the same on occasion.
Elaine Collins is the Commercial Director of findmypast.com (formerly 1837 Online). She was scheduled to provide a plenary address at this Auckland, New Zealand, event this morning entitled, "For your eyes only: A preview of the 1911 census for England & Wales.” There were two issues with that plan:
- The first issue is trivial The 1911 census may have been planned as a "preview" when the planning for this conference was done and the brochure and schedules were printed. However, it is no longer planned: it is reality. The 1911 census for England and Wales was released last week. (You can see the announcement at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2009/01/england-and-wales-1911-census-goes-online.html.)
- Because of the business demands of releasing the new online offering last week, Elaine could not get away as planned. In short, Elaine was a "no show" lecturer. She remained in England to take care of business. However, she and the conference organizers solved the problem with a bit of technology that impressed the conference attendees I spoke to today. She attended "virtually" and gave a great presentation to a large audience that filled a sports arena in Auckland.
Elaine Collins remained in England but attended the New Zealand event by teleconference. Her live image appeared on a large projection screen in the hall, and her voice emanated from a connection to the public address system. In short, the audience had a better view of her on the large screen than they would have had if she had been there in person, standing behind a lectern. At appropriate times, the live image of her face was replaced by video from a computer accessing the 1911 census of England & Wales. Even though Elaine was on the opposite side of the world in England, she was able to deliver a first-class demonstration of the new service to an audience of several hundred people in New Zealand.
It was a bit eerie to sit in the audience and watch a presentation being delivered by someone who was about 12,000 miles away. That's eerie, but also great fun. The teleconference solution was an excellent use of technology to simultaneously solve the problems of a presenter's busy schedule and to deliver the very latest possible information to an assembled audience on the other side of the world.
I have a few suggestions for future conference organizers and presenters: practice this technology. It is cheap and easy to do, but you do need to understand it and to gain some experience before you try it in front of a live audience. Once you have the remote presentation capability available, you can use it as necessary to solve problems and to deliver top-notch presentations to your audiences. A few hundred people can vouch for the effectiveness of such a presentation. At lunch and at dinner today, I talked with several of conference attendees about Elaine's presentation. Without exception, everyone I talked to was impressed with the delivery and loved the material she presented.
I plan to practice what I preach: I already have two remote presentations planned this year. In a few weeks I will be in London, England, but will remotely address a group in St. George, Utah, by video conference. In mid-summer, I plan to do the same thing again when I am at home in the U.S. but will address a genealogy conference in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I only hope that I can offer as professional a presentation then as Elaine Collins presented today.
What is your society planning for YOUR next conference?