Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

RootsTech, the Largest U.S. Genealogy Conference -- Is large good?

As the Ancestry Insider points out in a short blog post, RootsTech Proclaims Itself Largest US Conference. Quoting from the post:
“The RootsTech 2014 conference, hosted by FamilySearch, has become the largest conference of its kind in the U.S., with attendees from 49 states and 21 countries,” reads an announcement from RootsTech. “Over 10,000 attendees are anticipated at the conference held February 6-8, 2014, in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the Salt Palace Convention Center.”
 Does large equate with good? In some cases yes and in some cases no. I happen to live in a large city because I enjoy the benefits of a large city. But on occasion, when fighting traffic or crowds, my dedication to large cities begins to waver. Last year, RootsTech 2013 reached the point where the carrying capacity of the portion of the Salt Palace was exceeded by the number of people attending the conference. This year, the whole conference has been moved to a move accommodating section of the Salt Palace that has the escalators and other people moving options to handle a very large crowd.

It is also a fact of life that most of the larger genealogy companies, such as and have all but abandoned the smaller conferences. In past years, a local conference, such as the Family History Expos conferences held here in Mesa, Arizona attracted companies such as, and etc. It is now rare for some of these companies to attend even larger regional conferences. In addition, many of the smaller companies have also abandoned the conference circuit. The reasons why the companies have abandoned the smaller or even regional conferences are complex but obviously entail commercial and economic considerations. Conferences are looked upon as either sales events or advertising opportunities or as both. These considerations are heavily influenced by the number of attendees. The more the merrier. But in reality, the larger companies and many of the smaller ones simply do get the return they need to support the expense of traveling to a conference. Hence, large conferences tend to get larger and smaller conferences tend to become less commercially oriented. So, if you want to see the larger vendors, you have to come to RootsTech 2014 or one of the other very large genealogy conferences.

From my big city perspective, larger is definitely good. In addition to attendance by commercial entities, larger conferences attract many more bloggers and participants (isn't that a profound statement!). It may be extraordinarily obvious, but the point is that there are more opportunities for interaction between various interests at a larger convention or conference. In the genealogy world in the past, none of the conferences around the country have generated much media coverage outside of the participants and the bloggers. Having 10,000 people at a conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, for example, would not even merit mention in the local papers. On anybody's scale, RootsTech 2014 with 10,000 attendees will not have made it out of the unnoticed smaller conference category. For example, in the category of medical conferences, 10,000 attendees would just have barely made the top 50 conferences in the United States. See HCEA Top 50 Largest Medical Meetings - Total Attendance. The largest medical conference is apparently the Federation of International Medical Equipment Suppliers with over 54,000 attendees. Going back to Las Vegas, in 2012 they had 4.8 million delegates attending a convention, trade show or meeting and a total of 21,615 such gatherings.

To put that into perspective, RootsTech's 10,000 attendees would be about .2% of the total for Las Vegas alone. Notice the decimal point.

Now, that said. The issue here is genealogy and obviously RootsTech 2014 is going to be the largest genealogy conference around in 2014. So for that reason it will attract the maximum number of participants, vendors, genealogy society members, and others interested in genealogy or paid enough to come, than any other such gathering in the U.S. So, for that reason alone, it will be worth the trip, time and expense. Come and see me at RootsTech. With only 10,000 people there it should be too hard to find me.

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