Have you seen any ideas (or had some activities at your society that you would like to sahre or point out to others here? If so, just add a comment to this discussion topic or comment on someone else's comment.
Another idea I like comes from a March 2008 meeting at the North Platte, Nebraska Genealogical Society:
"The Genealogy Kitchen Sink is fast approaching. That's what the North Platte (NE) Genealogical Society members are calling the March meeting. It's like a mini-fair where members can bring displays of projects, family treasures, ideas, books, ..." The rest of the story is at this clickable link: http://www.incolor.inetnebr.com/rcoleman/page6/files/category-genea... Any comments about this or program ideas you'd like to share, just REPLY to this REPLY to this DISCUSSION TOPIC.
For the 2009-2010 I was co-vice president of our society, as such I was part of the program committee. One of the things I did was to hand out a questionnaire (actually two, at two meetings) listing various topics (over 100). It was interesting that the thing that the most people wanted was how to organize their genealogy. Considering that most of the people at the meetings had been coming for YEARS (I have been a member since the late 1960's) I was rather surprised. Other topics of interest were various military wars, especially the Civil War and that time period.
The new vice-president now has to deal with the programs starting in Feb. I am still on the committee and have about a half dozen potential speakers lined up. I actually enjoy this committee. We also post them on our Facebook site.
James, I came across this last summer at a genealogy workshop when the organizer used this as a recurring topic as we met weekly. I am a by sight paper filer (Put it in a file drawer, and I forget about it.) and organize once in a while, and I was astonished at all the ideas she presented and we talked about. I think you have hit on a good program idea which could be used several times.
Our Society does an annual survey. (This is getting old and we are running out of good questions to pose on the survey.) That being said, we usually include a listing of the past programs we have done and asked our members to let us know if any of the subjects/speakers should be repeated, expanded, or dropped for future consideration. This has been very informative to our program chair.
I am wondering, do you pay your speakers? This is one of the problems. We do pay them a fee, plus we will print out any handouts and if they are from out of town we pay mileage. The problem is if we can't get new members then we have less dues and are unable to pay for qualified speakers. It is a downward spiral it seems. Getting members to participate in projects and activities is also a problem. The majority are seniors who mainly come for the socialization. It seems like it is always the same 8 people who do all the work without credit where credit is due.
Sometimes we pay speakers, especially those who have to come to our area. Most local speakers don't ask for a fee. We ask them if they have a book, etc. they would like us to buy (their own or any genealogy book) and place in our genealogy research collection. Your detailing of "the problem" sounds much like ours and, I suspect, most smaller local societies. (Our county society is in one of the smallest counties population-wise in Texas.) I also know from 35 years of teaching in public high schools that people get the least from and feel less personally invested in lectures or "speakers." What drives most of us as learners, etc. is participation activities. Maybe that means a 15-minute presentation followed by 30 minutes or so of applied activities, discussion, etc. which each member can relate to his or her own situation or interests. I think a 45 minute speaker as the whole program should be a once or twice a year thing and then perhaps we could all afford to pay a fee that would bring in high profile speakers or topics.
Interesting about the lectures where people feel less invested. I also believe that applied activities are good but if you have a topic where the person does not have any personal ancestry involved then I would think the people would still feel less invested.
I also give a lot of talks free (and certainly not because I am rich) because most of the societies do not have much money to spend on speakers, but if they said they only want 15-45 minutes I would refuse them. I expect to give an hour talk (even if I am boring at times). I put a lot of work & time into presenting a talk, constantly updating to include new sources & adding to my handout bibliography. I have been doing genealogy for close to 40 years and I always learn or at least find interesting things about genealogy at these talks/lectures. We just had one on Polish ancestry. What Polish ancestry I have is back into medieval times, nothing current, but I still found the talk quite interesting.
As I said the participation part I think is also good and that is something our program committee has been discussing and are going to impliment in connection with our talk topics. It will be interesting to see if produces comradship, interaction, more membership, etc.
It is interesting one of the discussions on Genealogy Wise is "Is genealogy fun?" He seems to indicate it isn't, that it is hard work & in that aspect I agree, but I have fun discovering ancestors, going to seminars, meeting people and especially new relatives. Some of the research produces amusing events, names, etc. It seems most people want to be entertained therefore the commercial advertisements promoting genealogy emphasize "fun" and therefore the societies have to do the same. I think it is going to be an uphill battle, nobody wants to do all the work, they expect everything to be on the internet "just by clicking the green leaf". It is not real life.
Re. paying speakers. Our Society does not have a lot of money, but we try to pay our speakers a modest fee of $25. Our Program chair also invites them to lunch with us after the meeting--our treat. Another thing we do is to try to give a small gift to the speaker. We would love to pay more because we recognize the time and effort that goes into preparing for a talk. We have been very fortunate that most of our speakers are local and do not ask for financial payment. Many do take us up on the lunch.
Our group also has a "Speakers Bureau" that is available for free to community organizations within our County. It has been our experience that when we do a presentation a small check to cover gas is given to us and sometimes they feed us :)