(+) Conference Handouts: Do You Ever Later Refer to Them?

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

If you have ever been to a major genealogy conference, I’m sure you’ve received more than your fair share of syllabi, handouts, and other paper. Some of this paper comes from the organizing body while the remainder comes from presenters and vendors. In addition, you probably will also have whatever notes you took during the conference. Here’s the question of the day: Do you ever refer to any of that information later?

Years ago, I gathered in everything I could collect at a conference and dutifully took it all home with me. Then I would throw it into a pile on my desk or nearby. Over time, I collected lots of piles. I rarely had a need to refer back to anything later but, when I did have a need, I rarely could find what I was looking for.

As time went by and I attended more and more conferences, I started “slimming down.” When packing to return home, I would sort through all the paper while in my hotel room and throw away much of it. I kept only what I thought might be important. More than once, when trying to pack an already-overstuffed suitcase, I tossed a thick conference syllabus into the hotel room’s wastebasket.

When I returned home, I tossed the remaining paper into one of my ever-growing piles. Guess what? I rarely had a need to refer back to anything later; but, when I did have a need, I rarely could find what I was looking for. The problem had not been solved.

Eventually, I started refusing all handouts, relying on my memory. I had the theory that if a presentation didn’t cause a strong enough impression to stick in my brain, it wasn’t of much importance or priority to me. It was a great theory but one that turned out to be flawed. I couldn’t remember everything for years and years. Once again, I rarely could remember what I was trying to remember. The problem had not been solved.

Then there are those other people who go to the other extreme, not just collecting everything they can, but also organizing and archiving it so that they can access the information at any point in the future. That obviously is the better method, but it never worked for me. My organizational skills are lacking. Also, how do you file an individual piece of paper? By the title of the presentation? By topic? By the presenter’s name? By the conference’s name? By the date? Once again, I rarely could find what I was looking for. The problem had not been solved.

I eventually found a solution, one based upon today’s technology. It isn’t perfect, but it is far better than what I used to do.

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