Skip to main content

So, Who Do We Think We Are? The future of genealogy events in the UK.



It's now been a month since Who Do You Think You are? Live was held at the NEC in Birmingham. I attended all three days and got to see and experience the event from a number of perspectives - as an attendee, as a student/professional genealogist and as a speaker.

My biggest take aways from the show this year were that attendance was clearly down, some big names were missing (The National Archives, for example) and local genealogical societies were a bit thin (where was Sussex and Kent, and also Scotland was not very well represented).

As Steve mentioned on his blog and Jane mentioned on hers, there was a high number of non-genealogical stands at the show and I felt quite sorry for the women trying to give away free wine samples at 10am. Also, while the free massage was nice, the number of orthopedic and life insurance stands was a bit of a concern. As someone who's recently turned 40 I don't like being reminded of such things.

As a genealogy nerd I loved wandering around and having a nose at things and networking and all that. But, putting my objective hat on, it really was lacking this year and could have been quite a disappointment for people attending who didn't have friends and colleagues to meet up with and pass the time.

The Good
  • The Society of Genealogists. I love the SOG and the effort and energy put in by them to keep this show going and to keep it relevant and fresh and to get new people doing talks and presenting is something that is just so incredible and something for which we should all be thankful. Without them and their efforts (huuuuuuuge shoutout to Else Churchill here) it wouldn't have been as organised or interesting as it was.
  • Local societies, new societies and universities. The people volunteering on these stands took time out of their lives to be there to answer questions and provide information. Now, I did have a couple of small issues, which I discuss in a later post, but on the whole, the effort by these groups and the fact that they were there made the show all the more interesting and more than just advertising space for the big companies. Shoutouts to Jeanette Rosenburg from the JGSGB for being good fun; the RQG and my dear University of Strathclyde.

The Bad
  • Communication. One thing I noticed during the event was the lack of really knowing what was going on. There were some boards at the entrance giving an overview of what was happening but there was a lot of stuff going on that simply wasn't centrally publicised. Even something as simple as some announcements giving details of talks coming up next would have been good. Or bigger boards with more information on talks, events, who's there, what's going on, etc.
  • Refreshments and relaxation. The food choices were woeful and expensive and the lack of more seating and just places to chill and talk was an issue.

With the recent news that Who Do You Think You Are? Live will not be returning, there is a rather large gap in the genealogy trade show market in the UK. The question is - does this need filling?

In my previous life I worked in the computer game industry. Each year, there would be a number of trade shows/exhibitions that the company for which I worked would attend. These would happen all over the globe, but primarily in the US, UK and Germany (aka, "The Big Three").

As time went on the big UK-based trade show got a bit smaller and ended up moving locations a few times. This year it will also be held at the NEC, but the lack of attendance by certain companies signals that perhaps it's not going the way people hope it would.

In the US and Germany, on the other hand, things are a bit different. There are a number of big computer game/comic/sci-fi conventions that get bigger and better every year (some even have branched out to have East-Coast/West-Coast versions).

If we look at the situation in our own industry and the continued growth of RootsTech each year (to the point that UK-based companies and Universities offering genealogy courses have people and stalls at this convention) one must ask the question - Why can't we get ourselves together here in the UK and have the same?

I will attempt to answer that question however, will do so in a completely subjective way that may, or may not, actually be accurate. Who knows, what follows in the next post may be the biggest pile of drivel I've ever written.


Comments

  1. Erin, thank you for the insights and your thoughts. As you mention Germany and several trade shows - did you noticed that even Germany only has smaller events with more local societies involved.
    I was always jealous for the WhoDoYouThinkYouAre Live in the UK, but maybe if we look on RootsTech we should think more as Europe and work together?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would love to see more cooperation. My comment about Germany was primarily about the computer game shows I've been involved with in the past, but I really think there's scope for building something amazing over here. :)

      Delete
  2. Debbie Kennett reports "I've been advised by Else Churchill of the Society of Genealogists that attendance this year was 13,500 which was slightly up on last year". See goo.gl/3ezsLv. My perception was that Friday, the day I attended, was busier than last year.

    I thought communication was good. Just visit each area where talks/lectures were being held where a large poster displayed the titles and times.

    I have been to RootsTech and will not be going again. Far too much hype, not enough tech, and so many concurrent talks that it was impossible to attend all that interested me.

    With so much high quality source material and information, and instant interaction, on the internet these days I suspect that the need for physical events in the UK is now limited.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Trevor,

      It's interesting you say that about Friday because I found it to be quite quiet compared to the Thursday and Saturday.

      I think there's some elements of RootsTech that can definitely be applied over here but areas we'd absolutely need to ignore - I agree that concurrent talks is not a good thing, having to choose can be a right nightmare. :)

      Delete
  3. As for food, I thought the choice was good. Even discovered a food outlet at the extreme rear left corner of the hall that I had not spotted before - with comfy seating. And a decent sized Wetherspoons just outside the hall, easily accessible with a passout.

    This year the free wifi in the hall was very good too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had a rather negative experience with food but a positive experience with coffee. So it wasn't all bad. ;)

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Thoughts Of A Relaxing Postgrad Student

Yesterday I submitted my final assignment for the Postgraduate Certificate in Genealogy, Palaeography and Heraldry with the University of Strathclyde. It's been an interesting 9 months, not without struggle, but I am pleased to be done and (although I am waiting on a final mark) I am very proud of what I have achieved.

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the end of 2015 and since July of last year have been dealing with quite severe symptoms of this disease. When I began the PG Cert I did consider whether or not it was a wise decision, given what I was going through and what was likely to come but I decided to give it a go.

The support I received from the staff at the University was nothing short of amazing. They were completely understanding, flexible and gave me great advice all along the way. I had a couple of bouts of being in hospital (including one where I got a lumbar puncture which resulted in me not being able to sit or stand for more than 10 minutes at a time for a …

So Who Do We Think We Are? The Future of Genealogy Events in the UK. Part 2

This is a continuation of my post Who Do We Think We Are? I fully expect some feathers to be ruffled by the following but also truly believe that without some harsh comments and discussions, true progress (in any field) cannot be made. I also want to preempt this all by underlining that the work of people and organisations in the previous WDYTYA? Live shows was really wonderful and everyone should be proud.




Shows like WDYTYA? Live and RootsTech need to be "shows" (to an extent). The life-blood of such events is not those of us who are already in the industry. While it is a great opportunity for us to network and meet up with friends and colleagues, in order for it to be a success, there needs to be some "layman" bums on seats and so the appeal needs to be broad.

What this means is that it needs to draw a crowd and how do you do that? By having fun and appealing things at the event. WDYTYA? Live attempted this by having "stars" from the show appear, but th…