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NGS Conference App +prep and planning

This just in...

The 2017 NGS Conference app is now available.
You can see details at, http://upfront.ngsgenealogy.org/2017/04/mobile-conference-app-now-available-for.html.

I'm posting not just to make sure you know this (if you're attending the conference) but for an additional reason.

If you use a smartphone or tablet during a conference, you want the app. It's free and it can save you time and an arm ache (lugging paper copies is a pain!). But only if you know how to use it!

The Upfront with NGS article above mentions this but I want to stress it---start using the app, now.

I am very comfortable with technology. I can usually figure out anything techy with a bit of attention, usually without any instruction (although reading the "manual" can save a ton of time). Even I learn to use the app ahead of time. It's there to save you time so you might as well save the maximum amount of time by knowing how to use it BEFORE you show up at the conference.

I haven't had a chance to check out this year's version of the app so I can't give you specifics about it, yet. However, the app has been getting better every year. The first year I used the app, it wasn't that helpful. The next time I used the app it was provided by a different company and was quite useful.

Note-taking

Last year I found the note-taking features helpful. As you know, if you read this blog regularly, I love Evernote and that's where I keep handouts and the matching notes. I was able to use the app with Evernote. Exactly how they are integrated may be different this year so I'm not going to say more but I want to point out this feature.

That's not the big reason I like the app, though. I could just save my notes in Evernote without a conference app.

Live Updates

What I really like are the features related to your schedule. This isn't one feature but I could just say "scheduling." The app-specific feature that's best is the live updates. You can't get in-your-pocket updates without the app.

You will have to "find" the updates if you aren't using the app. This could be posted on a physical board (this is what you used to always have to do) but there might be another online source that is kept sufficiently up to date. I'm not sure because I'd rather rely on the app which is meant to keep everything up to date.

Syncing

Speaking of up-to-date, the app syncs across devices. I have a smartphone and a tablet. I use my smartphone for most things, until I sit down in a lecture, at which point I take notes on my tablet (although I did try out handwritten notes on my phone---in Evernote---last year, it's an option but not ideal for long notes). I don't want to put down my tablet to check my phone or vice versa so syncing is essential.

"Scheduling"

But now to the advantage that to me is the deal-maker. I use the app to know where to go next. The updates and syncing feed into this, I know live updates mean the app information is correct and as long as both devices have been connected to the Internet, they will agree.

Old-school (torture!)

Before we had the option of an app, you had to find the room number in your printed material. This was fine if you got organized ahead of time (just as you should with the app). The problem was when there was a room change or when you had to find the room. There was a map but you had to turn several pages and then find the room on the map---often harder than it should be.

Here's where the big problem with paper came up. If you were running late or had a room change (that wasn't just to a room within sight), finding the room or finding the new room often made you late. It was juggling the paper brochure, finding the right page, finding the map, finding the room on the map, getting oriented to follow the map, etc.

Digital

You will still need to be oriented to use the map with the app but everything else is a matter of clicks and you don't even have to find the room on the map, the app will show it to you. You can also use the app to find vendors in the vendor hall. It worked similarly on paper but that was a second set of pages to deal with. Now it's just more clicking.

Planning Can Be Flexible

If you're thinking, "Jennifer, I'm organized and ready, I'm not going to be running late." If you are, great. I'm always organized before a conference but then the conference happens. I make a plan but I rarely follow it to the letter.

A conference like the one coming up in Raleigh, presents me with a half-dozen lectures I WANT to attend each session (maybe more, there are about 10 to choose from each session and I want to attend between two and eight at any given time). I decide ahead of time what I want to attend but then I change my mind when it comes time.

This is why I LOVE having an app. Those last minute changes are easy to deal with using the app. If I'm at a conference where I'm only interested in one or two sessions in each time slot, it's not a big deal. It's the conferences that are the most relevant to me that I really need the app.

There will also be more vendors I'm interested in visiting at a conference like this. That's when I end up running late. Sometimes the vendor hall is quite far from some or most classrooms (I don't remember this being an issue in Raleigh. I found time to go back and have a lunchtime swim at the hotel so I'm thinking this was a very convenient facility).

Sometimes thinking you have plenty of time because of the convenient layout is your undoing, though! Networking or catching-up with friends is also important at a conference. This and purchases are the big "slow down" when you visit the vendor hall. These are also the big reasons to attend an in-person event, as opposed to a virtual one. Using the app can buy you a few moments when you are late leaving the vendor hall.

To wrap this up, the app makes conference attendance easier to manage. You can adjust your plans without running late. The app is an easy way to organize your plans and have everything in one place.

How Much Time Does Prep Take?

If you're not sure how you have time to check the app out ahead of time, you only need a minute here or there. There should be a tour when you open it up and it will walk you through the basics. Try and have time for this as the app is not hard to use. The tour will make it even easier. Then, just poke around in the app whenever you have a free moment. This can be while you wait for something to load on your computer or waiting in line. It's fine if you're interrupted.

In the app you can select the lectures you want to attend and vendors to visit. If you don't have time before the conference, consider if you have time while traveling (you'll need an Internet connection, though). If you're driving yourself this obviously won't work.


Make a Plan---Digital or Analog

Even if you don't use the app, find time before the conference literally starts (even if it's 7am on May 10th) to choose your lectures. In a real bind, you can do this each morning. People have literally wandered the halls trying to find a room---when they don't plan ahead---and missed most of a lecture. That's a waste of money and time. Don't let it happen to you!

Worst case, pick your first lecture of the day and get there early. You'll get a good seat and can select the rest of the day's lectures while you wait. Look at the map and see if the rooms are close together or not. Being prepared can't make rooms closer together, but it'll feel that way.

Despite any drawbacks of attending an event at a convention center, I still love genealogy conferences. They are so inspiring and invigorating. Inspiration pales quickly if you don't have some kind of plan and feel you are floundering or struggling through each day.

Get the most out of your conference attendance. If you're a smartphone or tablet user, get the app. No matter what, find time to make a plan. Best case, plan before you ever leave home, worst case, plan each morning. You'll be amazed at what you can bring home from a genealogy conference with a bit of planning.

Learn more about the NGS Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, May 10th-13th, 2017.

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