Having now successfully survived my first ever WDYTYA, and having some time to recover and collect my thoughts, I am ready to reflect.
Conferences in Great Britain are so very different to conferences in North America. In North America the focus is on the speakers, topics and syllabus material. As an added bonus, organisers offer a marketplace as a change of scenery and change of focus for the attendees. Most attendees will tell you that the marketplace is a huge draw for them because it allows them to seek information not available to them outside of the conference. Many vendors will offer discounts on their products. Genealogy/Family History Societies are on hand to seek assistance from.
In Great Britain, the marketplace becomes a key focus with the talks and lectures added in as a bonus. No one is walking around with goody bags full of registration material. No one is lugging syllabus materials around. Bags are filled with discounted resources.
WDYTYA was, really, a huge marketplace. Huge. Vendors off all sorts. Family History Societies, Genealogy related organisations like CWWG, Deceased Online, people selling archival materials, Flip Pal, vendors who will assist you to create a lasting legacy from your family tree records. As well, the Big Boys were here: Find My Past, Ancestry and FamilySearch. There were people sitting swabbing cheek cells, talks on DNA, talks about getting started or using the various databases. Lots and lots of hands-on opportunities.
Sadly, there was a noticeable lack of Scottish representation, with ASGRA being the only one. No NLS. No NRS. No ScotlandsPeople. No SAFHS. No Mitchell Library. Nothing. I am well aware of the bitter feelings based on last year's last minute cancellation of the third day and the fall out from that, but in instances like this, politics need to be put aside so that the people attending can get the best value for their money, and that means representation from all countries in the British Isles.
I am also aware that this was the third WDYTYA in 15 months. An special show was put into place in Glasgow last year for Homecoming. And of course the extortionate rates for the exhibitors makes three in a year a bit of a struggle, especially given that most are not-for-profit organizations, not large corporations like the Big Three and in order to be fiscally responsible, choices need to be made.
It would be fantastic to have WDYTYA alternate venues each year, with the NEC (an amazing venue) one year with Glasgow the next, allowing better representation across the ancestral streams.
It would also be fantastic if the Big Three took on a sponsorship role, making the fees for the exhibitors both more manageable and more palatable. After all, for them, the money raised at the event needs to equal not only the fees paid, but travel expenses - as a minimum.
Would I attend another one? Perhaps. But if not taking part, only for a half day. Would I recommend the experience to others? Definitely, but with the caution that one day is more than sufficient. After all, there are only so many times you can wander past the same stalls. It would be best to choose the day when the speaker or topic you are interested in is speaking and then take advantage of the rest of the time to shop.
Well done, once again to the SoG. It is a monumental task to orchestrate such an event.