Public Speaking in a Post-COVID-19 Genealogy Industry: Why I’ve Decided to Opt-Out of In-Person Lectures and Workshops
I have come to a difficult decision related to my genealogy business and my public speaking engagements: going forward I will no longer be available for in-person genealogy speaking events.*
There are various reasons for this move, many of which I started to review prior to the pandemic’s arrival here in the United States in February 2020. For years I’ve had issues with travel due to health issues or just weather and equipment related issues.
So, as I get ready to complete 60 trips around the Sun soon, I’ve prioritized what I feel I should provide in terms of genealogy services including on-line and in-person speaking. I know this decision won’t please some people, but I’m afraid I’ve seen the future. And the future, at least for me, is virtual.
I recently had most of my 2020 speaking engagements cancelled due to the pandemic, and this has incurred a lost of close to $10,000 USD in speaking fees. Plus, despite travel insurance, I was unable to secure a refund on airfare for these events. On the bright side, two groups decided to take a chance on converting their in-person event to virtual and can you say SUCCESS? Both societies were delighted that I could migrate an all day workshop to GoToWebinar, have attendees connect from their homes, provide handouts, host a 60 minute lunchtime Zoom chat with participants, produce recordings of all four lectures, and more. There was high participation and everyone asked why virtual had not considered earlier. In fact, both groups may hold a special virtual event this Fall due to the response.
My decision will come as a shock to some of my genealogy colleagues and followers. I always appreciate your feedback as to what I do in the genealogy space and please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Note: I have several in-person events scheduled for late 2020 and 2021; I intend to keep those commitments and will be speaking in-person unless these events are cancelled or moved to a virtual online format.
Reasons Why I’ve Decided To End In-Person Genealogy Speaking Engagements
Here are some of the reasons for my decision.
- Travel has become tenuous and a hassle since COVID-19. I do not have faith in the US airline system right now, or in the near future, to keep passengers entirely safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The travel industry has recently been up-ended and turned upside down. It will take years – not months – to restore the ability to travel safely and conveniently from one point to another.
- Administrative time and expense related to travel. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, travel was a hassle especially when it came to arranging travel for a genealogy speaking engagement. Scheduling, purchasing airfare, travel reimbursements, etc. all eat up time. And for my recent COVID-19-related cancellations, the money spent on travel insurance did not cover cancellations due to pandemics.
- Health and mobility issues. As I get closer to completing 60 years of age, I realize that air travel is a contact sport and I really need to opt out. Generally I like to travel especially by air, but in the booming economy prior to COVID-19, it has become more difficult for me. Several health setbacks and accidents (remember Thomas is a “klutz” and in the past three years has broken a hand, both elbows, ruptured an Achilles Tendon, and had a full hip replacement). In addition, I have elderly family members I must protect and keep healthy. Family has always been a priority for me and will continue to be.
- Genealogists have embraced the virtual education concept. I’ve been advocating virtual genealogy education since I arrived in the industry as an author, educator, and speaker. While sometimes I felt like I was dragging genealogy society leaders into the 21st century, I’m delighted to see how many groups have embraced Zoom, Facebook LIVE and more. Since Baby Boomers are the dominant demographic in the genealogy industry, it makes sense for ALL PARTIES to migrate towards more virtual events. This means lower costs for societies (no facility rental, no food service, no travel expenses for speakers, no hotel contracts, etc.).
And I haven’t even mentioned the extended time away from family. In 2019 I flew over 50,000 miles traveling the world to spread the good word about genealogy. All that travel takes its toll and you know you travel too much when TSA agents at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport know you and ask where you’re going this week.
One Exception: RootsTech
While I am going to miss in-person engagements, I realize I need to connect with as many genealogists possible with the least amount of risks as outlined above. To that end, starting in 2021 I will be making an annual appearance at RootsTech in Salt Lake City each February.
RootsTech is a 4-day event held annually in Salt Lake City, Utah, dedicated to celebrating family, discovering family histories, and connecting the living to their ancestors and each other. With over 300 breakout sessions, an exciting lineup of celebrity speakers, and a gigantic expo hall, we’ve got something we’re sure you’ll love. Click HERE for more information on RootsTech.
I will have my own booth where attendees can stop by and chat, pick up some freebies and pick my brain about genealogy and technology. I’m really looking forward to this!
Going Forward: Let’s Get Virtual Baby!
If you are a genealogy society leader or a member of a genealogy society . . . and you’re looking for new ways to present educational content to your members . . . then let’s connect. Right now, I can provide a 60 minute webinar (50 minute lecture, 10 minute Q&A) for just $100 USD. This includes a four-page PDF handout as well as a recording of the webinar for you to share with society members (in a secure Members Only section of the society website). Click HERE to download my current “pitch” document listing over 50 presentation topics and requirements for hosting a virtual webinar for your group.
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