Volunteering your time to a worthy cause has always been a passion of mine. If it wasn’t for these various organizations, we wouldn’t have educational opportunities, various forms of entertainment, or we wouldn’t be able to do things like preserve our history, our culture, and who were are.
And really, isn’t that a major reason we have events? To share in life’s moments and passions with our family, friends, and coworkers that we care about?
The Minnesota Genealogical Society
I’ve been involved with the Minnesota Genealogical Society since 2015. In my time there, I’ve played many roles, but the one I have had the pleasure of doing the longest is in helping plan the North Star Genealogy Conference. Which I have done every year since 2016.
The North Star Genealogy Conference is a 2-day premiere conference in Minnesota, bringing together genealogists, vendors, exhibitors, and national speakers into one location to further the educational knowledge of genealogists in the upper Midwest.
Like all great events, planning the conference takes time—a year, to be precise. We hold the conference in October and then by November we are starting to plan the next year’s conference.
I’ve had the pleasure of working on the publicity team, planning the various mailings, website information, social media campaigns, designing the conference program, and other marketing needs. This conference is so large, that it takes sub-teams to make sure that everything gets done. I also work with the rest of the committee on all the other plans for the conference. It really does take a team of people to pull this off.
Plan, Plan, and Plan again
From selecting the theme to choosing breakout sessions and speakers that coordinate, the venue, the schedule, the A/V logistics, flow of the event, marketing, printing, food and beverages, banquet and entertainment…the list goes on and on.
So what is the format of this conference? I’m glad you asked!
This conference starts off with a Thursday “pre-conference” that usually ties in a specialty of genealogy or a special speaker. In the past, we have had a “DNA Day”, or an entire workshop on FamilySearch (given by David Rencher.)
Friday is the first main day of the conference. Usually kicked off by a wonderful plenary by a national speaker. We’ve been fortunate to have some great ones: Blaine Bettinger, Thomas Jones, Thomas McEntee, Judy Russell, and so many more.
The national speakers alone take special planning (picking their talks from their list of options, contract signing, coordinating airfare and hotel, transportation, dinners, etc.)
Break it out
We also have about four different breakout session time blocks during the two days. Each block will have anywhere from 6-9 different sessions going on, given by both national and local genealogists. This can require a team of volunteers to ensure those speakers get hooked up to the A/V equipment, have anything else they need, a special “room host” ready to introduce them, and handle the after-session survey, just to name a few).
Friday evening then brings the ever-famous “Ask a Genealogist” panel, where the audience can ask all of their tough questions to our panel of Professional Genealogists, provided by the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG).
We then give the attendees a social hour, with drinks and hors d’oeuvres, and a chance to socialize with other genealogists, who have become friends over the years.
Those two items are really key for the conference. A chance for the speakers to interact with the attendees and the attendees to interact with each other. As I said, many of them become friends and often then attend future conferences together. It goes from being a conference to a community!
We then usher attendees into our annual awards banquet. With a keynote given by the selected national speaker, and then a presentation of awards given to our various volunteers that have given exceptional service in the year.
We then wrap the conference on Saturday with more sessions and, of course, close it out with door prizes (which a volunteer has worked hard to procure from various vendors and organizations.)
I could go on even more about the conference planning, but one thing I want you to take away from all this: planning a multi-day event, takes time and many hands. So don’t get frustrated, and don’t think you have to do everything yourself.
In fact, give us a call, and we will work with you to make your next conference and event to remember.