Sunday, 14 February 2016

Comparing RootsTech to Who Do You Think You Are? Live

Last year I had the pleasure of attending Who Do You Think You Are? Live in Birmingham. It was my first time and I attended as a consumer.

This year, I had the pleasure of attending RootsTech. It was my first year and I attended as an Ambassador.

While the ways I attended were quite different, so were the experiences.

Both events were well attended, although it is hard to beat the attendance at RootsTech. The marketplaces were abuzz at both events. However, at WDYTYA, the only presentations seemed to be on DNA. Demonstrations by the Big Three (Ancestry, Find My Past and FamilySearch) were undertaken quietly and on more on an individual basis. Whereas every major vendor at RootsTech was giving presentations or demonstrations. Even the smaller vendors were giving talks. It certainly added to the buzz and to the learning that was taking place.

RootsTech offered free WiFi and computer access to everyone in the hall. The NEC, the venue for WDYTYA provided free WiFi.

RootsTech had a cafe with seating and lots of spaces throughout where there were comfortable chairs for seating. WDYTYA only had seating for exhibitors or speakers, which required leaving the venue to get a seat.

WDYTYA had a few talks scheduled and these tended to be on the outskirts of the room. One issue was that two of the areas were literally back to back and the two speakers were competing to be heard over the other.

RootsTech had a plethora of talks and unfortunately this made some of the sessions barely attended. One speaker mentioned that is was the largest audience he had never spoken to. The very large rooms made the small audiences even more noticeable. Fewer choices would allow for better attendance. Longer breaks in between would allow more people to take advantage of all that the Expo Hall had to offer.

WDYTYA had an "Ask the Experts" which was very well received and was helpful in getting people started or helping them move past their stumbling point.

WDYTYA also had an area set up where people could take heirlooms or artifacts and have them looked at by experts who could give more background. This too was well received.

DSCF8129 DSCF8127

As an Ambassador, the RootsTech experience was unrivaled.  We were placed in what was referred to as the "Media Hub" where we had WiFi, charging stations, tables and access to interviews. There was the formal sound booth where we could book small segments of time to conduct interviews. There was the less formal sofa chats where a number of people could interview one person. There was an additional sofa where we could manage impromptu interviews. Lots of people were seated around the perimeter conducting interviews and of course, we were blogging, tweeting and posting to Facebook as often as we could. In reality, the time to blog was almost obsolete. There simply wasn't enough time. The shorter posts to social media were much more manageable.

IMG_0113        RootsTech Ambassadors

In addition to the talks and marketplace, there were sponsored lunches. These were a bit pricey but so very worth it. The meals were incomparable, we had time to get to know others and most of all, we had a special insight into the presenter's passions for their product or organization.

Added to the daytime events, the Ambassadors were treated to a host of after-hours functions. The media dinner, the Find My Past reception and the large MyHeritage after party. These were tremendous opportunities to speak one on one with the vendors or to socialize with the people we only get to communicate with online. While it left no down time, the experience was amazing and added to the overall buzz.

I am unlikely to attend another WDYTYA, especially as just an attendee. If I do, it will be for a half day. Before attending RootsTech, I held the same belief about attending a future event. However, by Day 2, I was already looking forward to next year!

The dates for RootsTech 2017 are Feb 8-11MARK THE DATES! I can't wait to see you in Salt Lake City!


  1. I am so happy that you posted this! I have also wondered how the two were in comparison. This certainly gives me some insight. Thanks for writing.

  2. I have read a couple of posts lately saying that RootsTech is too overwhelming and that WDYTYA was the better choice. Having now experienced them both, I can't agree. Certainly RootsTech is busy and yes I suppose if you aren't able to be flexible, it can seem overwhelming, but it is my first choice by far!

  3. I agree that fewer sessions and perhaps even tracks would be a good choice for RootsTech in future. I would love an Ask the Experts section - that would be sweet. Also perhaps Antiques Roadshow could be encouraged to work RootsTech one day/half a day. I thought the diner was amazing (such an improvement from the year before) and I would love a bit more time between functions and sessions, especially if you also exhibit. Some great insight as between the two conferences - I do love the fact that RootsTech is what you want it to be, you can spend your time only at sessions, at sessions and the FHL, at the Exhibit Hall, hanging with new geneamates, or any combination. It's all good.

  4. Thanks, Tessa. I feel really bad for the speakers who put so much work, time and energy into preparing slides and syllabus materials then ended up only presenting to a handful of people. I think reducing the numbers of simultaneous talks would work well.
    And I, too, love that RootsTech is what you make it.

  5. I am concerned about the reports you heard about presenters being in rooms that were too large, so that they were talking to most empty rooms. On Twitter I was hearing the opposite -- specifically, that attendees who wanted to attend the advanced lectures were being turned away because the rooms were too small. I also saw complaints on blogs and social media that attendees were having trouble planning what sessions to attend because the schedule wasn't available until just before the conference. I don't have convention-running experience, so I can't speak to how these issues could be ironed out, but as a potential attendee, I appreciate the schedule that is given out for the Southern California Genealogical Society's annual Jamboree. On "the Pink Sheet" each session is assigned codes to show what kind of audience the presentation is designed for -- instead of a simple "Getting Started", "advanced" and something in the middle as RootsTech does, they have 7 different categories (e.g. Gen 7: Communicator which is for bloggers, lecturers, and writers). They have nine separate tracks, and each room has notes on the Pink Sheet about whether the session is being recorded (audio or video) or livestreamed. I've never seen the schedule for RootsTech laid out in the same fashion, so I can't compare, but seeing how well the Pink Sheet is organized makes me far more confident about attending Jamboree -- it's easier to plan for in advance.