Give Us a Break…

I had the privilege to be asked to speak at a genealogy fair this weekend, and presented two lectures – speaking on State Censuses & Census Substitutes, as well as Brick Walls. I had a delightful time. The people were a pleasure to deal with and my host couldn’t have been nicer. I also had the opportunity to catch up on genealogy gossip with some of my old friends, who were also speaking.

I spent the morning in the exhibit hall. It was pretty dead, as everyone was attending classes, but those of us with exhibits got the chance to visit a lot more than normal. My glass was half-full…

The seminar had three to four tracks running simultaneously from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon. There were no breaks between classes. When the class which ran from 12 to 1 finished, the 1 o’clock class was to start – in the same room. Lecturers were to set up their computers and projectors for their classes while the previous lecturer was attempting to tear their equipment down and get out of the room – making for a very uncomfortable situation for everyone.

The lack of setup time caused me a bit of a nightmare. My first class was on State Censuses and Census Substitutes – a class that takes a full hour. I was still trying to get my computer to access the projector properly at 1:10 – and finally gave up, meaning that the projected image was smaller than normal, and without its usual clarity. I did the program, which came off quite well, considering everything. Where I got into real trouble was that I had a 2 pm lecture (immediately following the 1 pm class), on the opposite side of the building in another room. That meant that I had to tear my computer and projector down (while the next speaker patiently waited), and move a HOT projector to the other side of the facility – and set it up again FAST. All was going fairly well until the projector lamp decided that since the operator was stupid enough to rattle it around while HOT, it was going to have a quick death – and the $400.00 bulb ceased to function. When it died, I went into a bit of a state of shock, thinking that I’d just lost a $400.00 lamp and I couldn’t afford it… I then remembered that I’d purchased a 3-year warranty with the projector that included a 1-time replacement of the bulb, if it were to fail. That made me feel better. Since I was speaking on Brick Walls, I really didn’t need the slides anyway, and went right ahead with the program. The audience was very receptive, and I can report that we had fun for that hour… So in the end, it all worked out.

However… The folks that are setting up genealogy seminars, conferences, fairs, and workshops must keep in mind that breaks are required between classes. That’s always been the case, but it’s even more so in today’s high-tech world. Computer projectors need about 10 minutes to cool off before they are moved. The speaker needs about 20 minutes to set up the equipment and make sure everything is working properly. That means that 30 minutes should be given between 1 hour lectures. During that 30 minutes, computer systems can be switched over without danger of destroying expensive lamps, and attendees can visit the exhibit hall, and even have a chance to hit the restroom before heading to the next program.

So, all I can say is, please… give us a break at the conference in your area.