In this day and age of ever-escalating travel expenses, the opportunities are slowly disappearing for live presenters at genealogy conferences and meetings. Many societies and conference organizers find it difficult to spend $300 to $600 in airfare, hotel rooms, and restaurant meals for one presenter to talk in front of a crowd of 100 people or less.
At the larger conferences featuring 50 or more presenters, the total expenses just for speakers are often $10,000 to $50,000. Of course, those expenses fall right through the ledger sheets to the bottom line: conference attendees have to pay the expenses by paying higher admission prices.
Luckily, there is a high-tech solution that can reduce expenses significantly and yet still offer internationally-known speakers to local and even to national conferences. The solution is teleconferencing. I doubt if all presenters and all meetings will ever move exclusively to teleconferencing, but I would suggest that you can find many opportunities for justifying some remote presentations.
I watched a very effective teleconference presentation recently at the Australasian Federation of Family History Organisation's (AFFHO) Congress held in January in Auckland, New Zealand. One of the scheduled keynote speakers, Elaine Collins of findmypast.com (formerly 1837 Online), was scheduled to speak about the newly-released 1911 U.K. census. However, she ended up being detained in London because of last-minute details concerning the release of that very product. She was unable to travel half-way around the world to deliver her presentation. Instead, she and the conference organizers set up a teleconference session, and Elaine made her presentation remotely.
Elaine remained in London but did go to a local teleconferencing center. Projectors and audio equipment were set up in a large hall at the conference location in New Zealand. The result was gratifying to everyone concerned: Elaine gave her talk and even conducted a live demonstration of the newly-released census records. The audience saw Elaine's face, listened to her voice, and watched the live demonstration as it was projected on room-sized projection screens with several hundred people in the audience. A question-and-answer session followed where Elaine was able to answer questions from the audience. The entire session worked perfectly; it seemed almost irrelevant that the presenter was about 12,000 miles away from the audience!
The London-to-New Zealand effort was conducted with rather expensive, commercial-grade teleconferencing hardware that cost several thousands of dollars. A few weeks later, I tried a very low-budget version of the same thing: I was in London, England, and made a brief presentation to an audience about 5,000 miles away in St. George, Utah.
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