EasyGenie recently interviewed Tami Osmer Mize of ConferenceKeeper. Tami is a veteran writer and lecturer, and has launched several genealogy blogs and virtual services. Via its website, blog, and weekly newsletter, ConferenceKeeper does an amazing job of helping genealogists in the U.S. and Canada track in-person and virtual events.
Ian, EasyGenie: How did the service get started?
Tami, ConferenceKeeper: In 2015, a friend and I worked on various genealogy projects together and became aware of Jen Baldwin's "ConferenceKeeper" website, which she had created to just share upcoming genealogy conference dates. Jen had recently started working for FindMyPast, and hadn't time to keep the website up, so Eowyn Langholf and I asked if we could take over, and she graciously passed it to us.
I totally fell in love with the site, and spent all my hours outside my regular 8-5 day job working on ConferenceKeeper, trying to make it as useful as possible for anyone seeking information about genealogy education. Eowyn's work with WikiTree kept her busy and she left after the first year of our new version of ConferenceKeeper.org.
What is the value of a small genealogy event in a local library or senior center, compared to a giant event like Rootstech or NGS?
I think all genealogy events have value. The bigger venues like RootsTech or NGS have the ability to engage the "big name" speakers and provide a lot of great education over the course of their event. They also tend to draw representatives from the big genealogy companies as well as lots of smaller ones, so the Expo Halls are always a fun place to learn about new and sometimes obscure products in the genealogy market. And of course, you're more likely to run into more of your genealogy friends at these bigger events too.
But the smaller venues -- the local societies, public libraries and community center programs -- have the advantage of being a much more personal experience. Speakers often are presenting out of their passion for the subjects, and smaller attendance size also means you're more likely to get your specific questions answered too.
I love being able to support and encourage participation in local events, and have gotten the most amazing emails telling me that a society's membership has doubled, or attendance at their webinars is up by nearly 75%, and all attributed to their visibility on ConferenceKeeper.org.
How do you collect so many listings?
It's really the genealogy information website that I always was hoping to find, but instead went and created - hence the addition of individual pages listing Calls for Papers, Podcasts, Youtube channels, etc.
In regards to the calendar, I've made it as easy as possible for anyone to submit their events, using the Submission tab on the menu bar; or if they have a list or spreadsheet, they can just email the information to me at email@example.com, and I'll take care of adding it.
Over the past few years, more and more societies and public libraries have been regularly submitting their own events, as have individual speakers and genealogy businesses. But there are so many more fabulous events out there, I do spend many hours each week scouring the internet for conferences, seminars, and interesting programs and webinars too. I don't think I'm the only one who suffers from FOMO (fear of missing out)!
To keep up with all of the new events, it is advantageous to subscribe to the once-weekly email. I will stress that the emails ONLY go out once a week, usually Saturday evening. The email includes interesting genealogy news and event information, upcoming deadlines for registrations and calls for papers. The information in the email is also cross-posted to the Blog page (conferencekeeper.org/blog), where the full list of all the events added the previous week can be found.
Occasionally a weekly email will be clearly indicated as being sponsored by an individual, society, or business who has paid a small amount for the single ad (again, clearly indicated) therein, but other than that, I do not include advertising in the newsletter, and do not accept payment for mentions or promotions in the newsletter. I really love to share information about great genealogy events and information that I find, and I don't ever want anyone to think that my opinions are being paid for.
What is the business model for CK?
The business model has always been one that makes most business analysts cringe: I work for free, give away everything, and rely on the kindness of folks to donate enough to cover the website expenses (hosting, domain registration, automation programs, etc.). Then last year I got the wild idea to turn it into a non-profit - Genealogy ConferenceKeeper.org, Inc. I figured I wasn't in it to profit anyway, so why not make donations tax-deductible too.
Then I quit my day job so that I could devote my time to the site. I couldn't be happier providing this service, and love hearing from individuals, libraries or societies who write to tell me how much they appreciate or have benefited from the service. To me, that's true success.