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.
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.
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 8-11. MARK THE DATES! I can't wait to see you in Salt Lake City!