My lovely co-founder and I headed to Elgin this last Thursday to attend a meeting of the Elgin Genealogical Society. EGS President Larry Pepper had invited me almost a year ago to come speak to his members about Genlighten and I’ve spent the last several months getting my slides ready.
The presentation went surprisingly well, despite a few minor projector resolution issues. The highlight for me was when my wife and I managed to pull off our first-ever live demo of the site. Attendees got to watch as I ordered a lookup and Cyndy fulfilled it, in slightly-faster-than-real time. That could have easily been a disaster, but fortunately it worked just fine. There were also a gratifying number of extremely helpful questions and suggestions from the audience for features we should consider adding to Genlighten.
The main thing that prompts this post, however, is the chance to share the way the EGS runs their meetings. I’m sure many top-notch societies manage to hold great meetings, but here are some of the things I found particularly impressive about Elgin’s approach:
A great meeting venue
EGS meets at the Gail Borden Public Library alongside the Fox River in Elgin. The meeting room was well-equipped with a projector, screen, plentiful outlets, a movable lectern, and free wireless. Very speaker-friendly.
Efficiently-run society business time
Larry headed up this section, started right on time, and in right around 15 minutes had managed to:
- Share health updates on current and past members
- Highlight upcoming events
- Solicit donations to enable the genealogy section of the library to acquire some new books recommended by EGS members
- Receive a brief treasurer’s report
- Welcome guests and get them to introduce themselves and the surnames they’re researching
Refreshments and social time
For about 15 minutes prior to the speaker’s presentation, members had a chance to chat, get to know guests and new members, and enjoy some great refreshments in the back of the meeting room. As guests, we were received warmly and made to feel welcome.
A surprise guest
The meeting took a spontaneous turn when a member of a quilting group that happened to be meeting in the library the same evening was given a few minutes to display and discuss a pieced quilt displaying a fairly detailed genealogy of his family back to “the 1300s” (hmmm…) The quilt was quite impressive and generated a lot of interest from attendees.
The main event
My Genlighten presentation ran about 45-50 minutes plus questions, including the live demo. I can’t vouch for whether the audience went away satisified, but I sensed a good connection with those in attendance. Judging by the list of past presentations and upcoming ones listed on the EGS website, they seem to cover a wide range of topics and draw on a number of outside participants in addition to society members.
Generating Attendance from the Community
EGS arranged to publicize my talk on their own website and passed info along to websites for other neighboring societies as well. They also placed a meeting notice in the Fox Valley Daily Herald. From what I saw, it looked like as many as eight guests may have attended, in addition to the 50 or so existing members who were there.
I was surprised to note that EGS meets twice monthly: once during the day, and once in the evening. That seems like a great way to attract a wide spectrum of potential members and to keep them actively engaged.
EGS prides itself on being “one of the most active genealogy societies around.” It’s easy to see why. Judging from the quality of the meeting we attended, I expect their membership to continue to prosper and grow. On behalf of Genlighten, I’d like to thank Larry and EGS for a highly enjoyable evening.