Wednesday, June 10, 2009

2009 FGS Conference in Little Rock, thinking about going...or not!

I have been giving a lot of thought about going to the FGS (Federation of Genealogical Societies) conference in Little Rock, Arkansas. The event is being held at the Little Rock Statehouse Convention Center, September 2-5, 2009. I am on the fence about going for several reasons.

From what I can tell, it would be almost the same price for me to go as an observer as it would for me to rent a booth at the trade show. I could set up a 10' x 10' booth and promote my free, genealogy lesson site, USA Family Tree. There are however a few downsides to doing that...
  1. There are a lot of "hidden" charges, such as paying for electricity and Internet service in the booth. If I were going to go, I would want a computer set up in the booth for people to sign up on the spot. That would cost me another $200 or so.
  2. If I get a booth, I would not have time to hear any of the speeches or mingle with anyone. (I would hate to miss one of the Elizabeth Shown Mills presentations!) My wife would probably go if I asked (to work the booth) but she would make the trip more expensive by going and she would not want to leave our children for that long.
  3. I would have to get some booth props made, signage, fliers, etc. That would set me back another $500 or more.
Another big expense for the trip would be travel and lodging. To drive would cost me about $300. To take the train would be about $400. Those are my only two options because a plane would not accommodate my booth props, nor do I like to fly anyway.

As for driving or riding the rails, it is about a two-day trip to Arkansas from best as I can tell. It is something like 16 hours by car. With that in mind, I would have to take off at least a week from work, giving up a future trip to Disney World!!! Also, the hotel will run about $160 per night, including parking.

When taken all together, the trip would cost me about $1,200-$1,500...not including meals or items that I purchase along the way. It would also suck down a week of vacation and put a couple thousand miles on my car! I would really like to go but that is a lot of money!

Let's break it down in the business sense. Exposure is priceless...I get that. My free, genealogy lessons are obviously designed to make money someday so the exposure would be great! I am mostly using these lessons to get my name out there, to become better known in the genealogy world. Who knows, I might come out with something down the road to sell and can use that site to gain credibility in the industry.

I am going to let you in on a secret...some of the back-workings of my genealogy "business"...

I currently run ads at Facebook, the social networking site, to drive traffic to my free lessons site. The last time I checked, it cost me about $0.18 for each person they sent to my site. Of those people, about 33% would sign-up for my lessons. It therefore costs me $0.54 for each person that actually signs up for my lessons. I have almost 800 people signed-up as of it theoretically cost me $432.00 to get them signed-up. If I took the $1,200 from the convention, I could essentially buy 2,222 new subscribers through advertising with Facebook. (That would be 2,778 if it cost me $1,500 for the trip!)

The big question my money better served to buy advertising and get 2,222 new subscribers my money better served to go to Arkansas and mingle? There are a lot of people I would love to meet at the convention but I do not know if I can do that while tied to a booth. However, to not rent the booth would only save me, maybe $200. That is too small of a difference to pass the booth up...I would have to get a booth. However, I can almost promise your that I will not get 2,222 subscribers from the booth.

What would you do? I have until July 1st to make my mind up. I am leaning on not going but I can be swayed! There will be other conferences in the future so not going now does not count me out later.


Tina Merritt said...

Kevin, that's a pretty good in-depth analysis. What about the connections and referrals you would receive from the business to business contacts you make at the convention? I recently went through the Katherine Bushman papers at the Library of Virginia. I was surprised at the number of letters and documents that mentioned being referred to her by researchers in other counties and states.

Have you considered getting an aircard for your laptop? That way, you wouldn't have to pay for internet in Arkansas. Also, you could then work using your laptop while on the train to Arkansas.

Judith Richards Shubert said...

Nothing is ever as cut and dried as it seems, is it? My husband is always pointing this out to me when I say, oh, I think we should go here or there ~ it only costs x to go. I'm sure you'll make the right decision. Sounds like you have thoroughly researched all options. Enjoy the conference! ;p

Debora K said...

I just found your site and wanted to let you know I'm enjoying your posts. It's interesting to hear about your business and the choice between beefing up your online presence and going to conferences. The economy killed any hope of my going to NGS this year or getting to FGS. But I'm hoping to make it to FGS in Knoxville in 2010.

I have a Wordpress blog where I post Virginia transcriptions and abstracts. You can check it out at

Joan said...

I would wait for closer conference.