A recent blog post by Paul G. Nauta for FamilySearch is entitled, "RootsTech 2015 Breaks Records and Keeps Giving." Since I was personally involved in this year's RootsTech experience as both a presenter and as a blogger, and since I have attended all of the past RootsTech conferences, I have an interesting perspective on this year's (2015) events. I have also been involved in a number of "Family Discovery Day" activities already since attending the Conference. A short time ago, I taught four classes as a local event and I am already scheduled to teach a more of these Family Discovery Day events in the future.
I am finding that the attendees of the RootsTech 2015 Conference have come away with an extremely positive attitude towards the Conference and with a greater interest in becoming involved in family history. In past years, there were always some negative comments, but so far, I have not heard any about the most recent event. From my personal viewpoint, the Conference was a tremendous success and I am most certainly looking forward to attending the next Conference in 2016. The 2015 Conference was certainly much better organized that previous conferences.
I think the fact that the Family Discovery Day registration was limited is a clear indication of the interest and need for this type of major event. I fully realize how difficult it is to anticipate attendance, but with the caliber and participation of the Keynote presenters, a huge attendance could have been anticipated. I just hope that the people who came to see the famous people chosen to present at the general meetings, stayed long enough to learn something about genealogy. For my part, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and relevance of the main presentations. I really appreciated, for example, getting to know Donny Osmond not just as a performer, but also as a family historian. I hope they do not run out of people of that caliber who have the family history connection to present in the future.
One of the consequences of the growth of the Conference is the inevitable depersonalization of that many people participating in a conference. FamilySearch was helpful and considerate as usual, but I have to contrast the attention the bloggers got at the early conferences to that of the one this year in 2015. There were apparently 50 bloggers invited to participate. I certainly understand the role of a blogger, but perhaps there should be some more requirements imposed on future participants to write about the event and participate in other ways during the event?
I would also suggest that given the effort to attract new people or less experienced family historians to the event, that more basic, entry-level opportunities be provided.
If you look at the numbers quoted by Paul Nauta in his blog post, you will see that the Conference has reached the point of becoming a major event. Although attendance is not nearly as large as other popular conferences, for genealogy this is really big. Perhaps one way to keep growing is to create mini-conferences within the main event. For example, we already have an Innovators Summit for programmers, developers etc., why not have other interest groups such as bloggers, instructors, academics, etc. have a time or place to gather. I realize that as bloggers we had the Media Hub, but how about events or meetings or classes aimed at specific groups within the greater genealogical community?
As far as the Family Discovery Days, these are the best idea yet. I am seeing a lot of people who had no real interest in attending a conference in Salt Lake, now having the opportunity to share in some of the excitement and benefit from the overall conference experience.
All in all, I thing RootsTech is one of the best things has happened to genealogy in the United States (even if they do insist on referring to it as family history).