Earlier today Sheri Fenley of The Educated Genealogist posted We Were All First Timers Once and Amy Coffin of The We Tree Genealogy Blog made newcomers planning to attend FGS 2011 an offer they should not refuse in An Offer You Can Refuse (But I Hope You Don't). Since I was fairly recently a first timer, I thought I'd add my two cents worth.
FGS in Knoxville last year was my first genealogy conference. Attending a conference was something I'd wanted to do for a long time but I was hesitant because I would have to go alone. When I found out that FGS 2010 would be in Knoxville - a simple two-hour drive for me - I decided I had to give it a shot.
Now it helped that I had started a blog around the first of the year and had been communicating online with other bloggers. I at least knew the names and faces of a few people who would be in Knoxville but I'd never actually met any of them.
Here's how things went:
Wednesday evening, after spending most of the day researching at the East Tennessee Historical Society, I decided to have dinner in the hotel restaurant (alone). It was relatively empty when I arrived but before the waitress could take my order, two ladies who were seated at a nearby table asked if I was there for FGS and invited me to join them. This became par for the course. Every morning at breakfast someone either asked me to sit with them or I asked when someone else appeared to be alone. One morning there were four people at my breakfast table and each one of us was traveling alone from different parts of the country.
There was a planned GeneaBlogger meet-up on Thursday morning shortly after the Exhibit Hall opened and that was when I first met several other bloggers. As luck would have it, someone from that group was in almost every session I attended for the rest of the conference but when they weren't I struck up a conversation with whoever happened to be sitting nearby.
I spent three days in Knoxville and never sat at a table for one in a restaurant or felt alone in a session.
Genealogy is a powerful common bond. You know how your family and friends look at you when you try to talk about it? Well, no one at a genealogy conference will give you that look. So. If the only thing holding you back from attending a genealogy conference is the concern about going by yourself - don't give it a second thought. Go. You will not be alone for long.
Oh, one more thing. Last August I wrote FGS - My First National Conference a few days before heading to Knoxville. If you check the comments you'll see that Sheri and Amy both left encouraging comments for this newbie. Thanks ladies.