Saturday, June 16, 2012

Where's Your Ribbon? Networking at Conferences

(c) 2012 Gena Philibert-Ortega
At genealogy conferences  various vendors, organizations and people hand out ribbons to affix to your name tag. These ribbons may proclaim a characteristic of the wearer themselves (at Jamboree there were people who were sporting "tired feet" ribbons) or just act as a mini-advertisement for a website, company or group. So that got me to thinking, where are your ribbons?

Now, I'm not talking about how many ribbons did you get at the last conference. I'm referring to in what ways are you letting other people know about your research. Because this is a larger discussion which includes online and offline activities, let's just look at conferences, society meetings and other genealogical events that you attend.

Networking with other researchers is important on many levels, one of which is the potential in finding someone who is researching the same surname or place you are. I've connected with possible cousins in many ways while I've been out and about. At one conference a person was reading a family history book  between sessions that covered one of my families. Although we were not from the same branch, it was nice to talk about our common surname research.

There are many different ways that I see people "advertising" their research. Some societies print special t-shirts with the places and/or surnames they are researching. A few genealogy societies sell pins that members wear with their name and the surnames they are researching.

What are some ways that you can get the word out about the surnames you are researching? Here's a few to get you started:

Business Cards: Print or have printed business cards that provide your contact info and the surnames you are researching. Then liberally give them out at conferences; don't hold on to them. Introduce yourself to people, give them out to as many people as you can think of. Some genealogists remember the surname of fellow researchers and refer them to others with the same surnames.

Use Surname Walls: If the conference has any kind of "Surname Wall" where they allow attendees to post surnames they are researching, take advantage of that. In fact, bring your own labels that you have already printed out with the surname, dates and places.

Enhance your Name Tag: No matter what conference or event you attend, you most likely are going to get a name tag. Why not enhance that name tag by adding the Surname/s you are currently researching. Brightly colored ink  will get the attention of all those that pass by you. If you keep and reuse your own lanyard you can add to that.

Carry your Surnames: Not too long ago, craft stores sold tote bags that had clear pockets that you could slip photos in. I still seem business women carrying these with advertisements for their business. Whether you find a similar tote or buy a plain canvas tote at the craft store, use that to embellish with names, places, a map or anything that calls attention to your research. One of the benefits to this idea is that everyone at a conference is carrying the same totebag, the one that the conference organizers provide. Your embellished tote will get some attention and maybe even net you a new cousin.

Use the #Hashtag: I know I said I wasn't going to talk about ways to attract attention online but this goes with the theme of genealogical events. Most genealogy conferences, at least the major ones, have an associated hashtag for Twitter. #NGS2012, #SCGS12, #FGS2012, #FHExpos are all hastags used on Twitter this year. Use those hashtags to not only tweet what conference you are going to but to also announce your research interests. Everyone searching via that hashtag will see your surnames and in some cases when the conference organizer has a live Twitter feed display at the conference, even non-Twitter users potentially will see your tweet.

So how do you "advertise" your surnames at genealogical events?

1 comment:

Pam said...

Great post Gena! I attended my first conference at NGS in Cincinnati, and passed out my business cards EVERYWHERE I went!