Social Media Policy at NGS Conference 2017

WARNING: This is strictly my own opinion.

I had seriously considered attending the National Genealogical Society’s 2017 conference from 10-13 May this year in Raleigh, North Carolina. I will be traveling then, but, as it happens, not to the NGS conference, and I have to admit I am happy I am not going this year.

DearMYRTLE had a Monday morning hangout online a couple of weeks ago and the NGS conference was one of the topics of conversation. Actually, their new social media policy was the main focus of the discussion.

There are several pieces to their new policy.

  1. No cameras/filming in sessions. This is a double-edged sword. I attend conferences to learn and for fun, but I also attend in person so I can share photos and information about speakers. Right up front, I agree 100% with this policy if it relates to the actual speaker’s presentation. There are rude, ignorant people who sit in talks and photograph every slide, which is a copyright violation in and of itself and is just wrong. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. Room monitors need to announce that there is to be no photography or filming during the presentation itself and that violators will be asked to leave the session. As a blogger, I do take a photo or two (and, literally, that is about all I take in each session), but my photos are taken BEFORE the speaker begins and I ALWAYS approach the speaker to ask permission. Occasionally, if the title slide is up on the screen, I might photograph that, too, so I don’t have to scramble through the program while I am typing up a blog post. With this new NGS policy, bloggers won’t be able to do what I do, which is minimally-to-non-existent invasive, and is total free publicity for both the speaker and the conference itself.
  2. Vendors are required to pay extra fees, on top of what they are charged for table space, if they wish to present their products through the use of live streaming, mini-presentations, etc. in their own booth. This doesn’t affect me directly because I’m not a vendor. I understand that NGS needs to cover the costs of the conference and that the venue itself might have difficulty supplying the resources for the technology end of things, but getting to conferences is as expensive (or more so hauling their wares) for vendors as it is for attendees. They will need to decide if the extra fees can be justified in terms of profits and building clientele. Given declining attendance at many conferences, NGS might be shooting itself in the foot with this policy, as some vendors may decide to skip Raleigh. Personally, I learn as much in the vendor hall as I do in the sessions. I’d be disappointed to find nothing but tables and sales people in each booth. It’s the visual “extras” that add to the experience.
  3. This third new policy is the one that annoys me most of all. Cameras and filming aren’t permitted in the vendor hall, either, unless prior arrangements have been made (e.g. a fee has been paid). I have to be blunt – this is just asinine. It means that bloggers, or even attendees that want some picture memories, can’t take pictures of vendors, products, or memorable exhibits.

I write my blog for fun. I don’t sell anything, I don’t have ads on this site and I pay a lot of money every year to maintain this hobby. I am not about to pay anybody a single penny for the privilege of photographing people, products and events at a conference, which provides them with free, positive publicity.

I hope the National Genealogical Society rethinks this policy for next year and the year after that and the year after that. If they don’t, I, for one, won’t ever attend a future NGS conference.

3 thoughts on “Social Media Policy at NGS Conference 2017”

  1. I wholeheartedly agree. Not only are they charging a fee (which isn’t spelled out in the vendor contract), they seem to have no policy in place for those vendors who do apply for permission. The vendors I’ve spoken with never received an answer.

    They’ve also buried a “no video or audio recording devices in the exhibit hall” in the Social Media policy — which is under the “Press” section of the site, but is clearly intended for attendees. So, are they going to be checking for smartphones and iPads when people walk in? They have told me they aren’t… so that means that they’re going against their own policy?

    It is absolutely ridiculous and counter-productive to have these sweeping restrictions, rather than being specific about the issues (real or perceived) that they see.

  2. I agree with your points Gail. When I attended my very first conference last year (Jamboree in California), I was very excited to take pictures of the vendor hall, people I ran into while at the vendor hall and pictures with some of those vendors. I too have a blog and shared my experiences. And, same as you, I took photos of or with the speakers and of their title slides, with permisssion. I make no money from my blog. These policies seem like overkill and may keep future vendors and attendees away. I certainly hope other conference organizers don’t follow suit. I’ll be attending FGS later this year.

  3. Let me say that NGS has clearly made some huge mistakes in their policies for this conference, but that being said, I REALLY dislike misinformation, especially when it is intended to incite. It is the duty of bloggers to provide information as accurately as possible. We’re genealogists, and we need to do the research ourselves instead of relying on what we hear from others.

    Accordingly, first, there should be a link to the social media policy in this blog post. Here it is (at least as it stands right now):…/social-media-policy/

    Second, the policy I’m looking at does NOT say “No cameras/filming in sessions.” It says “We encourage participants in the conference to…request the permission of speakers if you would like to take their photographs directly before or after a session.” That’s completely standard at conferences these days, and should be. Good luck finding a speaker that says no when someone asks! Most of us are hams!

    Third, the policy I’m looking at does NOT say “Cameras and filming aren’t permitted in the vendor hall.” The policy says “We encourage participants in the conference to…take and share photographs at any time in the Exhibit Hall.”

    Yes, the policy does appear to prevent video and audio, but it clearly states that photos are encouraged. So no one should question that smartphones and cameras are fine as long as they aren’t taking video. THAT (taking video) is the issue we should be discussing, not this other really bad misinformation.

    FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a speaker at the conference, and I have a book published by the speaker. I don’t think that changes anything I’ve said above since I am merely reading from a document, but I wanted to provide that info.

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