Saturday, 7 May 2016

Poor Turn Out at NGS 2016

The setting seemed ideal for those of us struggling to find an end to winter. However, for genealogy enthusiasts, it wasn't much of a draw. 

The NGS Conference in Ft Lauderdale had a very poor showing this year. Apart from opening day, the Exhibition Hall was empty most of the time. I can't imagine many of the vendors were able to break even on costs, when considering booth rental, flights, hotel, shipping, meals. Unfortunately poor turnouts make them think twice about attending the following year. 

The consensus among those I spoke with - and believe me we had plenty of time to ponder - was that the new fad of live-streaming the talks makes it less desirable for people to want to attend in person. Sure they don't get to network, but much of that is compensated for on social media. And they don't get to visit the Exhibitors. Bit the savings on travel, hotel, conference fees and even the money they would spend at the vendor booths seems to be enough of a draw to simply sit back in their comfy clothes, with coffee in hand and attend from their favourite armchair, bed, deck chair. Its a win for the attendees and a huge loss for the vendors. It will also be a loss for the organizers who have the expense of venue rental, shuttle bus rental, speaker fees, speaker expenses. 

Are we doing ourselves a disfavour by allowing so many talks to be live-streamed? Or is this simply the way of the future for genealogy conferences? Perhaps they will all become virtual, with RootsTech perhaps being the exception, and vendors will simply pay to have advertising and links on the conference website. Goods can be shipped in a matter of a couple of day and subscriptions can be instantaneous. What the attendee misses out on, of course, is seeking advice from those in the know who can be easily accessed in the marketplace. 

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. 


  1. Sorry to hear the turnout was so poor. I appreciated the livestream, but would have much rather been there in person! I want to choose what sessions I get to hear and hangout with other genealogists. Hope next year in Raleigh is better! I will be attending in person!

  2. Do you think any of this is the result of so many conferences and seminars - all vying for those same dollars? I wonder if it would make more sense to have a large national conference and perhaps 4-6 regional conferences that the groups go together on to present. That way a person could attend a national conference and a regional one. Many of us work and/or have family responsibilities and it seems that the call for conferences, seminars and cruises has grown tremendously in the past 5 years - and sadly they are pricing so many attendees and exhibitors out of the market. I saw very few state or regional societies and associations at RootsTech (the cost of booths that had to be manned at all times takes a toll). Something to think about - and wondering how it is done in Canada. Thanks

    1. That's an excellent point, Tessa. There ARE so many to choose from between cruises, seminars, state conferences, NGS, RootsTech, etc. that it's HARD to decide on what to attend. Another thing is that the same speakers tend to go from RootsTech, FGS, NGS, etc. that it's the same crop with similar presentations. Personally, I would have liked to have gone to NGS this year because there were so many names of presenters that I DIDN'T know but Florida is a long way from Missouri and I don't travel well.

  3. We have one large provincial conference. Some provinces every year, some every other year. The smaller, more regional societies have full day workshops and a handful of vendors. These tend to work well. No national conferences as yet in Canada. We will need to see how the Great Canadian Genealogy Summit is received. We may find we are in the same boat as the regional conferences in the US.

  4. For our new company (Kindex) almost all of our budget is going toward software development, making these conferences cost-prohibitive. It would be interesting to explore alternative avenues for vendors, such as a "virtual vendor" program.

  5. I hadn't thought about live streaming being an issue, but if it is, it just might be one we have to adjust to as vendors. I do think if that is the trend, it will swing back to a balance point - too many of us like in person events. Its not just about the classes.

  6. The economy is a major factor. Even people who are doing "okay" are making choices.

  7. What was the attendance this year compared to other years? I am at the conference and it seemed to me as if the seminars I attended were all nearly full but this is the first time I've been to this conference.

  8. I was having a conversation with a well-known genealogist about the cost of attending a banquet. It's already expensive, and if minimum wage goes up, count on $10-15 more per meal. Most won't pay that, and will go off-site to eat.