I have written in the past about some of the disappointments I have had at national conferences with their high expenses and the tendency to cram in hundreds of presentations in a limited amount of time. I would offer the Mid-Atlantic Family History Conference as an example of "how to do it right." Luckily, there are hundreds of other local and regional genealogy conferences that operate on similar models, and most of them also "do it right."
Today's Mid-Atlantic Family History Conference 2009 was an example of how to present valuable information, how to entertain several hundred people, and also how to do all that at very reasonable prices. The event was held at a local LDS Family History Center that was just about the right size for an event of this type. My only complaint was the parking lot: it was filled. That's what I get for arriving late. Trust me: that is a minor quibble as I found a parking spot about a half block away.
I never heard the final attendance numbers, but I'd guess that it was in excess of 300 people. The majority of attendees live within driving distance of this southern New Jersey location that is not far from Philadelphia. Travel, hotel, and restaurant prices were not a factor for most of the attendees.
Registration was a modest $12, and that even included lunch. I'd call that a VERY reasonable price! In return, attendees could choose from more than 20 classes and presentations on a whole range of subjects, from beginner to advanced level. The presenters included a mix of well-known national presenters as well as several local experts. A Brick-Wall session offered an opportunity to "stump the experts" by asking their advice on some attendees’ long-standing research problems. A photograph scanning session was available to all attendees; a small number of exhibitors were able to show their products and services; and door prizes were offered from Ancestry.com and Footnote.com.
The only downside was the miserable weather: cold and dreary rain. However, it was warm and cozy all day inside the conference location.
I thoroughly enjoyed today's event, and I believe that everyone else did the same. To Paul Davis and his many assistants: Congratulations on a job well done!
As I was preparing to leave late this afternoon, I listened to several of the organizers discussing the day's events. They were obviously pleased, as they should be. I didn't hear any of them talk about next year's event, but somehow I suspect they will do it again. Keep an eye on http://www.mafhc.org starting about six months from now for further details.
While you might not be able to travel to New Jersey for next year's conference, I would offer this seminar as an example of the several hundred other local and regional genealogy conferences held around the country. Although today's event was held in New Jersey, the topics presented included Irish, Polish, and other ethnic interests, as well as some technology topics. Even if your ancestors did not live near where you presently live, a local conference often will include topics that match your interests. Most conferences do NOT focus on just the local area; they mix that in along with many more topics of interest to most everyone.
I had a similar experience at the Maine Genealogical Society's annual conference a few weeks ago, and I know many others are held throughout the country and the world. I maintain a list of upcoming genealogy events at http://www.trumba.com/calendars/eogns_calendar. You might want to check that list often to find an event near you.
If you can get to a local or regional genealogy conference, I'd suggest that you make the effort to attend. I bet you will enjoy it.