NGS 2014: How do I make decisions for sessions?

NGS app faceThe National Genealogical Society (NGS) 2014 conference is upon us.  I have been studying the program but there are so many great choices of concurrent sessions to attend– how does one choose? While I suspect every one’s approach is different I thought I would describe mine. I hope you tell me how you choose because I might be able to pick up some tips for this and future conferences.

First, there are various approaches, as I see them:
1. Decide on the first day in the morning of the conference. With so many to choose from, I think this is the least effective method, and, it is certainly not my “style.”
2. Wait and do all the reading and selections on the plane ride to Richmond. Though the flight + layover is long, it is a red eye and I will need to sleep instead.  No. 2 is really not an option for me.
3. Do all research before the conference, using technology tools, and see if I can narrow choices, particularly for the first day.
4. Obsess about this, study the syllabus over and over and make sure I have only one choice for each time slot. I would attend only those I have previously checked off. My approach is to not obsess; I am not this inflexible.
5. The opposite of no. 4: select none in advance and each day review and select the session for the next hour I want to attend. Repeat every hour. While I have adopted this approach once or twice, when life intervened, it did not work well for me; at best, I think this would only work when there are fewer concurrent sessions in a time slot. I cannot imagine using his technique for a conference like NGS where there are 10 concurrent sessions during each hour!

My “Plan A” is no. 3.

My “Plan B,” implemented when life intervenes, is a combination of 3 and 5. Using technology, I take some time to research and then select for the first day only or even just for the morning, then use the lunch time or the evening to make choices for the next day or the remainder of the week.

So here is my “Plan A” process:

  • I down load the app onto my iPad and iPhone as soon as they are available. (note, they coordinate between each other so, changes I make on my phone are automatically reflected on the iPad.)  I suspect there are some folks out there who do not know how to do this or the benefits.  I will have my final pre-NGS blog about the app, since I am such a fan.
  • After I register for the conference, I also enter the workshops, lunches and dinners I will be attending.
  • I start reviewing the app schedule when I have spare minutes (bus rides, doctor’s appointments, lunch time) and “star” every session which interests me. Sometimes this results in 5-6 sessions in the same time slot on the app. (clicking on the star results in it being placed on your personal schedule.)
  • About two weeks before the conference or as soon as it is available, I download the online PDF syllabus and load that into GoodReader (another app for my iPad for reading and filing PDFs.)
  • I read over the syllabus carefully and make changes in my choices on the personal schedule on the app. Usually the number of sessions per time slot is now reduced to 1-3 Rather than 4-5.
  • I will fiddle with my personal schedule a few more times and try to eliminate those I do not want to attend. I still do not worry about if I have more than one in a time slot.
  • I wouldn’t have to look at the schedule again until the morning of the first sessions on Wednesday.  At that time I would decide which ones of my narrowed list of preferences I wish to attend. it still might be a quandary, but a quandary over 2 or 3 is a lot easier than fussing over 10!
  • I revisit the afternoon sessions at lunch time and decide which ones I will attend for the next few hours.
  • I keep track of any workshops I have signed up for because those span over a two session time period.
  • Finally, I check in constantly with friends as to the ones they attended that were extra good.  I write down the names and consider buying the Jamba recording.

Each selection is subject to change “on a dime.” If I run into a friend and she is attending X then I may change from the session I have selected, especially if I am not so sure about it.  I also will attend a session by a good speaker and a topic I have little interest in over a poor speaker and something I would really like to learn about.  I figure I will learn something I didn’t know in each, I will broaden by experience in the former and get distracted in the latter.  I will also pick up some tips about how to be a good presenter in the former that I wouldn’t in the latter.

This year I also paid for the Live Streaming “Records & Research Techniques” track. While i could watch it in real time at the conference, I am instead planning on attending other sessions during that time slot and watching them at home after the conference. We’ll see if that works. It’s a first for NGS and for me!

The app itself could be improved allowing me to enter personal appointments on the personal schedule, such as the ProGen reception, volunteer times, flights out etc. it would also be great if the sessions could be color coded to mark those sessions I consider “must see sessions” with a higher priority for my attendance.

Notice, I did not discuss subject matter. I am as interested in Virginia as I am the use of technology as I am about military history. So, I look for gaps in my education (New York record sets), good instructors who I haven’t been exposed to before (Warren Bittner), advanced presentations (anything by Tom Jones) or, sometimes, totally random selections — just because.

These are my thoughts. How do you make your selections?

Happy hunting!


What I have done since my last posting: attended a work related Board meeting which pretty well consumed all my time. I arranged to interview a writer friend of mine in July, to discuss how he constructs his writing process.

Here are some links to the items mentioned above.

  1. conference site:
  2. online conference program/syllabus:
  3. downloadable conference program/syllabus:
    It appears you might have to be a member to download the syllabus.
  4. get the mobile app:
  5. live streaming:



2 comments on “NGS 2014: How do I make decisions for sessions?

  1. Hi Jill,

    The app does allow you to enter personal appointments. Just go to “My Schedule” and touch the “+” in the upper right hand corner. I used it to enter my flights, etc.

    Pam Holland

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s