I've been a little quiet for the past few weeks - getting over a horrible cold/flu-type thing and building up my energy reserves for the coming weekend. For those unaware, this weekend sees the annual Who Do You Think You Are? Live event, where genealogists of all persuasions gather to meet, give/listen to talks and advice, and generally catch up with what is happening in the genealogical world. I haven't attended for the last few years, but I've been to enough of these things to know that without a solid plan, it is easy to come away from it feeling like you didn't get what you wanted out of it. So here is my five-point plan to both 'survive' and enjoy WDYTYA.
1. Do your background research
Read up on the event website (or the current issue of the WDYTYA magazine) to see what talks are of most interest and note the ones you defiitely do not want to miss. I did this weeks ago, but as long as you are aware of your personal 'can't miss' sessions before you get there, it's good. As ever, I'll be catching a few DNA talks (I'm still on a learning curve on that!), and making sure I am there to see a couple of talks some colleagues from my time as a student (Kathryn Burtinshaw & John Burt, and Michelle Leonard).
2. Make a schedule.
I can't stress enough how much this helps. Whether it is in a diary or a spreadsheet (I do love a spreadsheet!), or whatever device you favour for such tasks, it doesn't matter - just block out the hourly slots for the day you are attending. Then I fill in the 'can't miss' sessions' and see how it looks. I think it is important to make sure that there is at least a couple of hours free each day without talks. This makes sure that you have time to wander around the stands, meet people, eat(!), and give your brain a wee rest. Otherwise, I just collapse with information overload.
3. Remember to eat and drink!
Keep those energy levels up and keep hydrated. I'm there for all three days and that is a marathon, not a sprint. I tend to always have a bottle of water and a cereal bar or two with me, just in case.
4. Check what's in my bag
Before hitting the show, I always make sure I have the following in my bag (besides my usual handbag contents!)
- Notebook and pencil - so I can take notes from talks, workshops and conversations that I have.
- Money - it might seem obvious, but I make sure I am carrying enough cash to take advantage of some of the exclusive show offers on books, accessories, or the like. Not all stands can accept card payments.
- Hand sanitiser - 'conference lurgy' is a real thing, honest! You put that many people in one large 'aircraft hanger' with a few coughs and colds going round... only one thing is going to happen.
- Canvas bag - to put all the leaflets, and bits and pieces that I will inevitably collect into.
- My bottle of water and cereal bars!
5. Talk to people
At events like this, I always think it is important to talk to as many people as you can. Genealogy can be a lonely pastime/profession at times. It tends to be something that you work on alone. So when you have hundreds of like-minded people in the same place at the same time - take advantage of it. Meet old friends and contacts, but also make new friends and contacts.
And that's it! All my planning and organising is done. I'm finishing this sitting on a train whizzing through the north of England on my way to Birmingham, ready to take on WDYTYA and get the most out of it. If you are reading this and are going, I hope some of the above rings true for you and you get everything out of it that you are looking for. And I'll let you all know how I get on when it is all over.