Wednesday, February 25, 2015

RootsTech and FGS Built It – and We All Came to the Exhibit Hall

Bright and early on Thursday morning I arrived at the Salt Palace to get a “before it opens to the public” tour of the RootsTech/FGS Exhibit Hall. Thanks to the FamilySearch folks for giving Geneabloggers, RootsTech and FGS Ambassadors that “behind the scenes” tour. We got to watch vendors put the finishing touches on their exhibits, and RootsTech volunteers check carpets, signs and electrical or internet connections. I kept thinking that this was the calm before the storm (and by that I mean in about two hours - 20,000 people were going to storm the Exhibit Hall!).

Lights on - soon this area will be swamped!

The water feature - and the start of our early morning tour.

Really nice product and booth - Well done Panstoria

Studio C - these cutouts would prove to be
very popular for photo ops

The Media Hub - always well guarded
Were they keeping the bloggers in or attendees out?

The only time all week these computers were at rest

FGS Society Showcase - clever idea to have those balloons

I was impressed with the quality and look of so many of the booths (although with setups as large as those of the big players – Ancestry, FamilySearch, FindmyPast and MyHeritage – I don’t think you can call them booths!). Clearly these sponsors spent time and money so attendees would have “an experience” and we certainly did. Well done! Many of the smaller vendors also did a great job with their booths. It was interesting to see the wide array of services, products and educational materials. I was impressed with the setup for the Media Hub, the Demo Theater and the Discovery Zone (and appreciated that they were spread out among the various exhibits). I understand why the big players were “front and center” as we came in the main doors (after all they underwrote much of the cost), but it would have been nice to have them more spread out in the Exhibit Hall as each had demonstrations and videos going all through the day and there were definitely large groups of people at all times as well as a constant din in that front section.

Since this was my first genealogy conference – these are my impressions as an attendee and future potential exhibitor:

Why are you exhibiting at RootsTech? – Do you have a product or service – if so, what is it, how will it help me, who is your target, and do you have your “elevator speech” to share with me as I walk by and/or stop? If you don’t have a great sign or banner (something that I can see from the walkway) and/or you don’t have an inviting “who we are” in the conference guide to get my attention, chances are I won’t be stopping by.

Give me something – I know that sounds crass but  – many of the vendors provided a button, a ribbon, a bag, or a raffle prize – and you should to. First, it is a great advertisement for your company or product. Second, it’s a good ice breaker and gets the conversation started. I was happy to have something to give people who stopped by the FGS Society Showcase – on Saturday - we gave away FGS bags and encouraged people to enter the giveaway for a free registration to the FGS 2016 conference.

Exhibiting at a conference is about more than selling your product – the vendors who simply sold missed out on the opportunity to inform, teach, make connections, and provide help to the attendees. You may have had great sales (and I get that is why you were at RootsTech) but it is about something more. I wanted to understand the services and products offered – for many vendors I can purchase your items online (and I had airline baggage limits!) so I appreciated the time you took to explain your product or service, answer questions, give suggestions, and point me in the right direction. I did not appreciate those vendors who chatted amongst themselves and ignored me (and others), or who had no idea of how their product or service related to the genealogy community.

I made a point of going through the RootsTech Conference Guide and circled those booths and exhibits that I wanted to check out. There weren't enough hours in the day (unless you skipped some sessions) to give the Exhibit Hall its due – and that must have been tough on the exhibitors and vendors - three eight-hour days can be tiring, you did an amazing job!). In future it might be nice to have a 2 or 3 hour block for the Exhibit Hall when there aren’t any sessions and then close down the Exhibit Hall during sessions or only keep the big players open, as they do for many other types of conferences.

With the proviso that I didn’t get to see everything (but I did make a couple of circuits each day) I was impressed with these exhibitors:

FamilySearch’s discovery zone - it certainly got lots of attention after it was showcased during the opening session. Loved the idea of the museum of me and the fun aspects of finding out about given names, surnames, migration, and how to place yourself in your family’s history. Well done to FamilySearch to being interactive and meeting budding genealogists where they are!

MyHeritage’s orange bags and helpful booth personnel – those bags were big, comfortable to put over your shoulder and collect ‘stuff’ on Exhibit Hall forays. Your booth layout was excellent - easy to navigate and personnel who could answer questions and provide some suggestions.

Panstoria’s discount cards and videos – well informed booth personnel and interesting videos really showed off your product to the best advantage. No hard sells at this booth and a nice discount that could be used in future. I was especially interested in your product as I am transferring from Creative Memories – you answered my questions and it appears it will be a breeze!

Outside the Box Sessions – the powerhouse genealogists (Janet Hovorka, Lisa Louise Cooke, Denise Levenick & Maureen Taylor) did some great 30 minute sessions and kept it entertaining at their booth. Sometimes all I wanted was a quick overview of something – their handout with their schedule, prize drawing, and their sessions was really helpful! The only quibble was the seating area (these ladies were popular) and the booth’s proximity to the Demo Theatre – all those mics and music were a bit distracting.

Shotbox’s brilliant idea becomes reality – the guys at the Shotbox booth have solved a problem for me! A clever and useful idea and they were happy to explain it and give me a demonstration using my mobile phone’s camera. I sent the photos to my sister and we are on the waiting list for this tabletop photo light studio – excellent “kick the tires” approach to showing off your product.

Unlock the Past Cruises – how can you go wrong with Alona Tester and Helen Smith meeting and greeting you? This booth had lots of information, it was nicely laid out and their booth personnel were friendly and helpful.

Chickasaw Cultural Center's materials - beautiful brochure and booklet as well as thoughtful booth personnel. I was so impressed with this booth and these were materials that I took home! I was pleased to see Native American culture represented and it would be great to see more of our Native American tribes represented - excellent. 

Some of my favorite things!
The best takeaways from my Exhibit Hall travels:

FGS stylus – very nice, it’s a pen, no it’s a stylus – no it’s both! So thank you, thank you FGS. I used this handy dandy stylus with my mobile phone from the moment I got it. Brilliant!

MyHeritage orange bag – loved this, MyHeritage gets points in both categories! Also took it grocery shopping with me. My nephew who is a fan of Oregon State wants it (for the orange) so I will have to keep my eye on this one!

Aussie pen – thanks to Pauleen Cass for this gem – lovely, colorful and every time I use it, I will think of my genea-friends from down under!

Anyone that gave out buttons or ribbons or blogger beads – you gave it some thought, knew we wanted some bling and you delivered. In return, you got some free advertising and our appreciation. I did not get to all of you but thanks to Ancestry, FGS, MyHeritage, Midwest Genealogy Center, RootsMagic, and Unlock the Past Cruises – happy to advertise for you! And I also appreciated the ribbons that made a statement and were subtle - #genealogy and I’m Connected. I was proud to wear by Geneabloggers’ beads and enjoyed meeting up with my fellow Geneabloggers (thanks Pat, Russ and Thomas). I missed out on some ribbons and buttons that I should have picked up (my fault – too many things to do and too little time) but to those of you with the budget (and I know some of you were there on a shoestring – so thanks for making the effort to exhibit), you might want to consider doing something in the future.

Tomorrow – Opening Sessions & What I Learned at RootsTech


  1. Excellent and thoughtful post Tessa...a great synopsis for vendors and attendees alike. Glad you like your Top End pen from Down Under :)

  2. Thanks for the kind word and it was lovely to meet you in person! The Expo Hall was definitely big and it was hard to see all that was there. I agree it would have been better to space the Big players around. I was disappointed to not see more Family History Societies present, major kudos to those that did attend.I believe this was a space issue but it was a shame for the attendees not to see the range of societies.

  3. Pauleen and Helen - thanks for reading and leaving a comment! Helen - the FGS had a Society Showcase that had 4 display stands with about 80 or so (Caroline Pointer will correct me if I am wrong) brochures from various society/association members. Sadly (in my humble opinion) the FGS booths - both Society Showcase and the Preserve the Pension - were at the very far end of the Exhibit Hall. A few days in I discovered that this made an easy trip between their booth and the FGS classrooms (that hidden escalator) but I did not catch on right away. I would have loved to have seen the FGS booths in a more prominent place to show off the societies and the 1812 pension project. But there were so many booths and exhibitors, I am sure that was a massive project for the organizers.


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