Did Genealogy Jamboree live up to its hype?

It’s Family History Month in the United States and as I pause to catch my breath, thanks in part of leg surgery, I’m reflecting on the conferences as triggered by Crista Cowan, the Barefoot Genealogist’s Instagram Tip of the Day for 9 October.

One conference has been dubbed the fun conference, so when Andy and I were accepted to present we were thrilled to go and explore. The Southern California Genealogical Society was celebrating 49 years and it’s set in Burbank, California at the beginning of summer. The question I’ll focus on is, “Did Jamboree live up to the hype?”

Southern California Jamboree 2018 Writers Conference

Writing Your Family History!!

I was thrilled to be on the same teaching slate a Lisa Alzo, Crista Cowan, Maureen Taylor, and Rhonda Lauritzen for a full day devoted to writing family histories.

  • Writing sessions are not on conference schedules often enough.
  • Writing makes you a better researcher and research makes you a better writer.

Kudos for Jamboree having a full day of writing classes!

Energetic Teachers, Two Different Styles!

If you’ve never taken a class with me,  you should be ready for an interactive session the moment you walk into the class. First, you’ll see an introductory slideshow about me featuring some of my non-genealogy interests and experiences. Most people comment on the first quilt I tried to make, my cooking fails, and my love of the books/television series Poldark.

This introductory period does two things, it helps you come to know me and if my presentation style is a good fit for you. If you don’t like my voice or pace, then walk out and find another presenter.

Second, it settles my nerves. The slides are meant to make us all comfortable in the same space. When we feel we’re among friends, we have a fantastic time learning together.

Devon Noel Lee speaking at Southern California Jamboree in 2018
Devon Noel Lee speaking at Southern California Jamboree in 2018
~ Photo by Walt Sturrock

When the go signal is given, I’m all business about the specific topic but be prepared for a few things:

  1. I don’t stay at the front of the room:
    • I’m hearing impaired so when you ask a question, I need to come closer to understand you unless you project like a drill sergeant. I usually attempt to walk back to the front before I answer, but I move.
    • Presenters who come closer can see you, and you can see them and a deep connection is made. I want that connection when you’re in my class.
    • Also, the best educators at conferences move and fill the space. I want to keep you engaged when it’s 1 pm or 4 pm, and you’re tired from lunch or a full day of classes. If I move about, you’re likely to stay away.
  2. Your stories and comments will feed into our discussions.
    • I make every presentation personal by interweaving your questions and stories into the lesson.
    • In so doing, you will never have a seminar that is read from a script and my classes will rarely be the same twice, even on the same topic.
  3. You can ask questions during the seminar:
    • Be bold and raise your hand when you don’t understand something.
    • The best learning happens when your questions are addressed in conjunction with the topic we’re discussing.
    • Someone else in the room has the same question.
    • Be prepared that some questions have to be deferred to later.

That’s my style of teaching and the folks at Southern California Jamboree who attended my classes appreciated it. At 8 am, I woke them up and energized them for the remainder of the Writing Conference. When they returned for my second class, they needed to wake up after lunch and knew I would deliver.

One attendee was the conference photographer. He said I was so animated that he had a hard time capturing me but didn’t mind it at all.

Andy Lee speaking at Southern California Jamboree in 2018
Andy Lee speaking at Southern California Jamboree in 2018
~ Photo by Walt Sturrock

Andy is just as entertaining, but he presents in a very different fashion, but with many of the same patterns. He’ll start off with an introductory slide show that celebrates his karate black belt win and placing 605th in a local triathlon, which he’ll never do again. You can talk about crazy adventures as you settle into a chat about his topics. His style features:

  1. Stays at the front
    • Andy has great hearing, so he doesn’t wander the isles.
    • However, he does not stay behind a podium. He moves at the front of the room to keep you visually engaged.
    • Andy often leans against the podium, which many speakers say is unprofessional. Just watch his leaning though, it projects, “Let’s have a casual conversation among friends” approach, and it works every time. (The conference photographer had an easier time photographing him.
  2. Your stories and comments will feed into our discussions.
    • Andy references your comments into his presentation as well.
    • Andy may have an outline that he references, but his delivery and your comments always make it unique.
  3. You can ask questions during the seminar:
    • Andy wants to know what you want him to spend more time on. He gages this by your questions. So ask them as they come up.
    • Mind you, he’ll defer some questions to a later time in the presentation or after class
    • He LOVES answering questions so if you don’t have yours answered during class, find him during the conference and have one-on-one time. Devon’s a social butterfly and often filming for our YouTube channel, so you’ll have to send her an email or Facebook message to pin her down for a discussion.

Why do you care about reading this? Because we have this guarantee. If you don’t like our styles or the content we’re sharing, then get up and leave. Yes, walk out of our class. We’d prefer you go to a different workshop that better meets your needs than waste your time in a session you don’t like (and then rate us poorly).

At Jamboree, we noticed very few folks took us up on that offer, so that’s a very, very good sign. We’re delivering on the content we promised.

Here’s a video recap of Thursday. You’ll find Andy and Devon but the photos go quickly. Be warned!

One Struggle That Was Beyond the Conference’s Control

While teaching one class and sharing my tips and philosophies of self-publishing, a few experienced individuals took advantage of my ‘ask questions throughout the seminar’ approach to teaching.

A few of the questions were challenging, and I like that. Question everything a teacher presents, but recognize in the end you’re listening to their recommendations. However, two attendees seemed to want to add comments or issue challenging questions after nearly every topic I covered. It became clear they were knowledgeable but had very different opinions than myself. Yet, as a speaker, folks came to hear my recommendations, not these particular individuals dominate the breakout session.

I hope that I handled it well when I reiterated that my recommendations are based on my experience and preferences. Attendees are free to use or disregard them. I then stopped calling upon the domineering persons and even cut one off when I was running out of time and needed to move on.  A few class members faces told me I did the right thing, as their head nods, sighs of relief, and eye-rolling of “can you believe this guy/gal/” occurred right after I moved on to the next point, and then their faces lit up when I continued with the presentation.

If you are ever in a seminar and a fellow attendee attempts to take over the presentation, be sure to give positive non-verbal communication to the presenter when they firmly cut those folks off. And if the speaker is really in a pickle, feel free to voice a comment, “thanks for the input sir/ma’am, but I’d like to hear from the speaker. Ms. Lee (or another speaker), please continue.” Remember, you paid money to attend these workshops so help yourself get the value you want.

Again, this was beyond the control of the Jamboree Conference. I’m not sure if the room monitor could have helped mitigate tricky situations. Yet, these situations can happen, and you now know how to help a presenter out.


I love Jamboree because many of my colleagues attended. Michael L Strauss, Diahan Southard, Janet Havorka (of Family Chartmasters), Bruce Buzbee (RootsMagic), Kitty Cooper, Peggy Lauritzen, Elizabeth O’Neal, and Crista Cowan were in attendance and teaching and/or staffing booths.  I am POSITIVE I’ve forgotten someone. If I did, please forgive me.

Devon's longtime Genea-Buddie, the renown Randy Seaver - Genea-Musings
Devon’s longtime Genea-Buddie, the renown Randy Seaver – Genea-Musings
A quick moment between Devon Noel Lee and Crisa Cowan of Ancestry.com
A quick moment with Crisa Cowan of Ancestry
The knowledge Michael L Strauss - Genealogy Research Network
The knowledge Michael L Strauss – Genealogy Research Network

Additionally, my Genea-Blogger friends were also in full force. At this conference, there was plenty of time for a few meet-and-greets or hallway chats. This low-stress conference was delightful. Perhaps this was the result of not having a booth that we were tied to so that we could chat more.

One funny experience happened to me. Can anyone else relate?

While Andy was presenting, I walked over to Subway and picked up our lunch. I found a bench in the hallway and ate my meal. I noticed a bright shirt on a lovely woman and we started talking, I am The Social One on Family History Fanatics. She was the first one today, “Are you…?” and as it turned out I was talking with my online friend Diane Gould Hall!

My online buddy meeting in person the first time Diane Gould Hall - Michigan Family Trails
My online buddy meeting in person the first time
Diane Gould Hall – Michigan Family Trails

Oh, she’s a delight offline and on. We talked about so many different things, including her reaction to her first experience at a conference we both attended earlier this year. In no time at all, we had to part separate ways, but now I knew her face, and we often waved as we passed. Man, I love the genealogy community. We may not always have time to talk, but we’re family!!!

Virtual Genealogical Association Meet Up in the Patio Bar at Genealogy Jamboree 2018
Virtual Genealogical Association Meet Up in the Patio Bar at Genealogy Jamboree 2018

I also enjoyed meeting up with the Virtual Genealogy Association members. We had a little hiccup connecting. I found two folks who looked like they were hoping to meet up. I introduced myself, and we waited and waited. Turns out, another group had gathered on the other side of the outdoor bar and were waiting for us. Ha, ha!! Glad my cell phone was working well so I could get us connected. The chit chat was refreshing and the venue for meeting up could not have been more pleasant.

Meeting a new genealogy friend - Nora!
Meeting a new genealogy friend – Nora!
Catching up with #genchat buddy Sue McNelly
Catching up with #genchat buddy Sue McNelly

Sadly, I missed the GenChat and Geneabloggers photo just like I did at RootsTech. I was meeting a new fan and talking about their genealogy, of course. When I checked in for details, the photo had already taken place. Y’all look great, but I think I need to photoshop myself in somehow!

In addition to meeting up with colleagues and online buddies, I enjoyed having the time and the opportunities because of the facility to make new friends. I spoke with so many folks from all walks of life, it filled my cup to overflowing.

We were interviewed by Elizabeth O’Neal of My Descendant’s Ancestor

Did the Conference Live Up To Its Hype:

We were told my genealogy industry members that the Southern California Genealogical Jamboree attendees would embrace Andy and I and are our style teaching.

They did.

We were told the conference schedule is less hectic and more relax, which would offer more time for networking and more.

It did.

We were told that there was more time to visit with vendors in the Expo Hall to dive deeper into our questions. We were also told the Expo Hall gave every opportunity for a vendor to receive exposure to connect with their likely customer.

From what we saw, it did. We could consider a booth here in the future.

We were told there would be plenty of opportunities for meetups and networking.

It did.

Genealogy Jamboree 2018 - Great Signage Throughout the Conference Added to Fun of this Conference
Genealogy Jamboree 2018 – Great Signage Throughout the Conference Added to Fun of this Conference

Genealogy Jamboree did live up to its hype. Andy and I definitely want to be invited to speak again. We were asked by a conference planner if we would come back, we said, “Absolutely! What do you want us to present on?”

We’re waiting to hear whether we were accepted to Jamboree 2019  the 50th Anniversary “Birthday Bash” conference featuring D Joshua Taylor, Judy Russell and Ce Ce Moore.

Sadly, we won’t be teaching at any conferences in 2019 on the topics of Writing the first draft of your ancestor’s story, Writing a compelling family history, and Self-publishing strategies to get your book done now!  If you know of a society or conference that wants speakers on this topic, let us know. The folks at Jamboree said we are worth hiring again, as they’ve already invited us back for 2019!

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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