Best Practices for Genealogy Conferences

This document is intended to provide best practices for organizers, officials of sponsoring organizations and anyone who wants to create a family history conference that will be successful for exhibitors.

The Genealogy Business Alliance is committed to making conferences profitable for genealogy companies so that they can further help the genealogy community flourish. These are meant as suggestions, not requirements, although we believe the conferences most able to put these ideas into practice have the best chances of being successful for their exhibitors and ultimately for everyone.

  1. Ideally, the size of the VENUE should match attendance. It is critical that any exhibit hall be very close to the classrooms and it helps when food is nearby as well. Some successful conferences have done away with large luncheons and plenary sessions in order to stay in a more ideal venue for exhibitors.
  2. If possible, hold conferences in places where union fees are not required, as union fees are severely detrimental to genealogy businesses. Exhibitors really appreciate carpeted halls. Charging stations are helpful to vendors and attendees. Exhibitor signs and pipe and drape are not critical to most exhibitors.
  3. When possible, it is best to break up the LAYOUT of the exhibit hall so that attendees are drawn into the space. Care can be taken to mix up central hubs with meeting spaces so that all exhibitors are given the opportunity to draw traffic to their booth.
  4. Local MARKETING is critical and should ideally be done by professionals. Marketing for successful conferences should reach genealogy professionals, hobbyists and people who are curious about genealogy. When participants have confidence in a good marketing team they are more likely to invest the resources to make the exhibit hall a success. Creating an opt in program for conference goers to receive pre-conference mailings from exhibitors is beneficial to attendees and exhibitors so that everyone can plan for conference specials. Ideally, attendees can register to receive notices of special offers when they register for the conference.
  5. Exhibitors are happy to help any conference create a sponsored track of CLASSES that are free to the public in classrooms or in a comfortable demo area in the exhibit hall. Classes should be listed prior to the conference alongside the regular class schedule in a program and on the website as “sponsored” classes to distinguish them as sales presentations. Exhibit halls and free sponsored class tracks can be marketed specifically to the local market to bring curious beginners.
  6. Successful conferences have exhibitor-friendly class SCHEDULES that are good for attendees as well. Thirty minute breaks and/or 1+ hour lunch breaks with food in the exhibit hall are ideal depending on the location of the exhibit hall in relation to the classrooms. Speakers should be encouraged to end on time so that class breaks can be carefully observed.
    Ideally, exhibitors need to have a full day before the conference to set up their displays. Likewise, it is critical that there are dedicated exhibitor times in the day when there are no classes, lunches or other activities scheduled. Exhibit halls do not need to be open the full time that the conference is in session–in number of days or number of hours each day–especially if there are unopposed hours for attendees to visit the hall. Exhibit break down should be logical to the session schedule, usually commencing when the attendees have gone to the last class. When conferences end on a Saturday or Sunday, arrangements for vendors who need to ship items home are greatly appreciated.
  7. Exhibitors appreciate interactive ACTIVITIES that drive traffic to the exhibit hall such as special events and some exhibitors are able to help sponsor such events. Exhibitors also need to work with the conference organizers to provide activities, drawings and conference specials to create excitement. Sign off sheets (passports) are valuable to drive traffic and vendors who don’t want to participate can provide a stamp for attendees to use themselves. The Genealogy Business Alliance Facebook group is a great place to get ideas or vet ideas for special activities.
  8. Exhibitors and attendees appreciate exhibit hall MAPS and hours that are clearly connected with contact information on the conference website and in the printed conference materials.
  9. Exhibit halls should be FREE OR LOW COST and easily accessible to local beginners, separate from full conference registration.
  10. Passing FEEDBACK from the attendees to participating exhibitors is helpful. Exhibitors are eager to learn how to improve their ability to serve the attendees’ needs. Exhibitors appreciate it when demographics and detailed attendance numbers are shared in a timely manner.
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