For those who were unable to attend this time (or those who were and who like reading reviews!) here are a few of my thoughts about the event.
On the whole, I thought the Excel was an excellent venue. It was very clean and spacious with ample toilets and plenty of (presumably their own branded) E16 coffee stands, so there were never any huge queues for those human essentials!! There were lots of large classrooms or meeting rooms for the talks, of varying sizes, but all had comfy seats, excellent acoustics and were neither too cold nor overly hot. Some talks proved more popular than others and after reading tweets on the first day that people had been turned away when rooms were full, I made sure I was waiting at the door for each talk at least 15 minutes before the start. I might have thought that by the numbers of people bookmarking talks on the app, that the organisers could have shifted the more popular ones to the bigger rooms. But then again, perhaps not everyone was using the app, and others may have made a decision at the last minute! Difficult to control.
RootsTech meets Comic Con!
On the first day we were spoilt by being able to walk through the whole venue. There was a Costa Coffee in the centre, which many people were favouring over the E16 coffee despite Costa’s lose-the-will-to-live slow queue. There were all sorts of other food outlets and restaurants, as advertised on Excel’s website, and I identified the places I thought I might like to have lunch on other days. However, on day 2 and 3, we were sharing the venue with Comic Con and despite getting into the swing of things with sci-fi family trees and superhero DNA stickers on arrival, Excel or RootsTech made the decision to barrier off the main concourse so we were left with just a handful of E16 stands with a small range of sandwiches and few places to sit. We couldn’t even get to Costa!! This caused some complaint and Excel hastily opened an aircraft hanger-sized additional hall, filled it with seats and added another E16 coffee stand, an ice-cream van (!!) and a ‘chicken and waffles’ stall (new to me!)
The Exhibition Hall
This was corporate city! All the big branded names were there. Those I was hoping to see at Family Tree Live: Ancestry, FindMyPast, Family Search, MyHeritage and all the big DNA names offering reduced prices for testing kits. The main players in family tree software were there too, plus many other familiar companies and societies. Several had huge stands and were running talks about their product or related topics throughout the day. This would have been amazing had it been situated in the huge hall they opened for the food tables, or in the auditorium with the seating removed. But it was quite a small space and so it was not only cramped, but the acoustics were terrible! The stands were too close to each other so it was a struggle to hear what was being said in the talks as you could hear the other all speakers around you! During peak changeover periods and especially on Saturday, the whole hall was rammed and it was difficult to get anywhere in a hurry.
There were also a couple of demo theatres – one for DNA and a larger one at the back covering all manner of topics. Both of these were running talks throughout the three days, which meant that anyone who just came to visit the exhibition hall (for free) could still enjoy plenty of lectures. I accidentally sat through one on the tv show Relative Race (and have written a separate blog on that one!)
I cannot fault the range of talks RootsTech provided! What a fantastic choice. There were 5 slots a day, plus an 11am keynote address. For each slot, there were at least 10 (yes 10!!) choices of talk on a vast range of topics to go to. There were sessions suitable for every level of genealogist – from the beginner to the hobbyist to the professional. I had a three-day pass, attended something in most slots and clung right on to the bitter end at 5pm on Saturday. It was exhausting!! I had brought university reading with me to do in the evenings and on the train, but it stayed in my bag the entire time!
I attended two of the three keynote speeches and found them more entertaining than I expected. I’m not really into celebrities, so my expectation bar was low, however both the sessions I sat in were a lot of fun. The volume of the video clips and especially the music was too loud for me, so I had to block my ears for most of that, but it was entertaining, nevertheless.
The one and only Donny Osmond!