It’s been almost a week since the end of the RootsTech 2012 conference and I’m finally able to get some thoughts down about my overall experience there. I’m adding my voice to dozens of other bloggers who also attended. I’m not going to try and cover the whole thing — just the highlights and a few low-lights for me.
One of my favorite things about these events is meeting the other attendees and this year did not disappoint. I finally got to meet several genealogy bloggers that up until last week I’d only known online and we all got along swimmingly. If nothing else, I think any conference can be a success from an attendee perspective if you get out there and meet the other attendees and network. I especially enjoyed getting to know my roommate, Footnote Maven. We had a really great time and looked out for each other throughout the conference (we both were hobbling around on injured feet).
Kudos to the conference organizers for scoring free breakfasts at the Radisson for attendees staying there. What a money-saver! I don’t know if that’s a standard part of the room package that the Radisson offers to event planners, but this attendee was thankful and used almost every one of my free breakfast coupons. The breakfast buffet was a great opportunity to run into other genealogists too. I’ve never had as much face time with Thomas MacEntee as the two mornings I was up early enough to find him at breakfast. What a treat!
The RootsTech app for smartphones and other handheld devices was a huge help to me — it was great to have the schedule at a glance (both the overall schedule and my own personalized session schedule). The alerts sent through the app weren’t all that effective — I usually noticed them too late and I think whoever was adding them was doing so as an afterthought rather than as planned missives. Better luck next time on that front. I was using this app on my iPad and it worked great, but I fear I would have found it to be too small on my phone, so I didn’t download it to that too. I’m also not sure there was a way to have your information from the app on one device automatically update on another.
I attended one or two really, really stellar sessions. Both covered advanced photography topics. Most of the other sessions were useful and educational, but there were one or two stinkers. Now we’re starting to get into the low-lights section, so let’s introduce that header, shall we?
Back to the sessions. There were a few problems here that started even before we all arrived in Salt Lake City. The session schedule for this conference was announced very, very late. I made a cursory schedule of sessions that I thought I might like to attend a few days before the conference and then shifted things around as the syllabi became available.
I think the schedule and the syllabi need to be posted much sooner and I think it would be a good idea for the conference planners to try and track what sessions folks intend to attend (the app is perfect for this!) and plan their spaces accordingly. Some of the sessions I attended were more than standing-room only. The rooms were uncomfortably packed and hot.
There were nearly 1,000 more attendees at RootsTech this year than last year and yet it felt like they were trying to cram us into the same number of sessions and spaces. Not physically possible. Shortly after arriving in SLC for RootsTech, I learned we were sharing the Salt Palace with another event — I think the conference organizers need to invest in more space next year!
On the content side of things, some of the presenters raced through too much material for their 60-minute slots or covered material that didn’t really align with their session descriptions. I’m going to join the chorus of attendees asking for more advanced session topics next year.
Another low light for me was the vendor area. It was expanded from last year and it was a little bit easier to navigate around (at least after the first day; more on that later). I’m not usually the type to want to learn about new software at a vendor booth — I’d rather visit their web site or download a trial version. If I’m going to visit a vendor booth, there’s gotta be something hands-on for me to play with that I can’t try out from my living room couch. Several other attendees bemoaned the lack of actual gadgets available at the conference. With the exception of Flip Pal, I don’t think there were any gadgeteers there. At a tech conference. Lame.
Back to navigating the vendor area on the first day of the conference. There were a few booths I actually did want to visit, but I couldn’t reach them. Why? Because they were mobbed by other attendees. But these weren’t attendees actually interested in the services those booths were promoting. They were just trying to get their passports stamped by enough vendors to win a t-shirt. Again? Lame. Nix the whole passport thing — if 2 percent of the folks getting those passports stamped had a valuable conversation with any vendor, I’ll be surprised.
My other complaints have more to do with the Salt Palace — they need to beef up their wireless signal availability. Also? Please get some better food options.
Am I likely to attend RootsTech next year? Probably. The registration fee has been reasonable. It’s right next to the Family History Library, which on its own is worth the trip. So long as I can keep networking with my fellow genealogists, I’ll be willing to fly out there. But I do want to see a few things improve for next year. Here’s hoping the organizers are listening.
Stay tuned for one more RootsTech post (my greatest hits — facts, tips and tricks that wowed me).