August 30, 2014

Where You Should Sit at a Genealogy Conference

Classroom at RootsTech 2012. Where will you sit? (Photo credit: LDS Church News)

Classroom at RootsTech 2012. Where will you sit? (Photo credit: LDS Newsroom)

This spring we’ve got some great conferences coming up in the U.S., like #RootsTech2013 in Salt Lake and the National Genealogical Society conference in Las Vegas, as well as events in Fairfax (VA), Wausau (WI), Manchester (NH), Cincinnati (OH), the Houston area, and Southern California. So here’s my question, just for fun: where do you sit when you go to conferences?

Studies of college classrooms show that students who sit toward the front of the room and catch the teacher’s eye are more likely to pay attention, which can translate into a better learning experience. Now, that caught my eye, because a better learning experience is what we all want out of conferences.

The report goes on to say that students who sit in front and make eye contact establish a better rapport with teachers and are more likely to be more engaged in the learning process. Of course, a conference isn’t the same as a college class. The instructor isn’t grading you. But presenters are human too, and they appreciate an engaged audience. In any sort of presentation, there is always an energy that flows back and forth between audience and presenter. Both you and the instructor will benefit from rapport and engagement.

Here are my tips for getting the most out of your experience:

  • Arrive at the lecture as early as possible so you can get a seat where you’ll be able to see and hear everything clearly.
  • Read the class syllabus ahead of time so you’ll be familiar with the material going into the presentation.
  • Print out the syllabus (or have it handy on your iPad or tablet) so you don’t waste time writing down ideas and links that have already been written for you.
  • Keep your attention on the speaker, but jot down any additional ideas the speaker shares that aren’t in the syllabus–as well as any ideas you hope to apply to your own research.

Here’s a final tip that comes from the study report on where you sit. One interviewee for this article says that, “In lecture, students’ attention tends to bottom out about 30 minutes into class, which is just when faculty are getting to the most important information.” She goes on to say that sitting closer to the instructor will help you stay focused during that critical time. The takeaway: 30 minutes into any lecture, if your attention starts to wander, challenge yourself to write down the key concept you learned up to that point, and one key question you hope will be answered. And then re-focus on listening intently for the answer.

Check out my upcoming live presentations.   See you in class!

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About Lisa

Lisa Louise Cooke is the Producer and Host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show at www.GenealogyGems.com. She is the author of the books Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies and The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, and the Google Earth for Genealogy DVD series, an international conference speaker, and writer for Family Tree Magazine.