First Time RootsTech Vendor Perspective (Part 1)

It’s been a month since we flew out to Salt Lake City in the capacity of speakers and exhibitors. Devon was an Ambassador and had completed a month-long series of posts so that you could plan your class schedule long before you put boots on the ground. 

The mega-conference had many highs and lows for us, so we wanted to have some distance before we shared our experiences. Since I can be pretty verbose in my memory keeping, I have broken the tome into multiple posts. Enjoy.

Deciding to Exhibit

In 2017,  I crossed “Teaching at Rootstech” off my bucket list. While at RootsTech, I spoke with a genealogy rock start that changed the course of our company. And, we left the conference and noticed a bounce in the traffic of our  Family History Fanatics YouTube channel.  By May of last year, FHF on Youtube was exploding and continues with exponential growth today.

By summer, Andy and I began to discuss ways to take the YouTube-style videos and bring them to online genealogy education. We coordinated an eConference for local genealogical societies to serve as fundraisers.

eConference fundraisers in genealogy
Example of an eConference we coordinated.

Family History Fanatics morphed from my wanting to gain credibility as a presenter and promote her books into a genealogy education company that wants to be everywhere you want to learn and have fun along the way.

With three product lines (books, webinars, and YouTube) to promote, Andy and I decided we needed to go to the big show – RootsTech 2018  in Salt Lake City Utah. With a projected audience size of 15,000, this superconference would allow us to interact with significantly more attendees who might not have discovered our YouTube channel yet, purchase one of our six books, and register for an upcoming eConference.

Dry Run

In July 2017, I had a dry run of staffing a vendor booth when I spoke at the BYU Family History Conference in Provo, Utah.   For two days I worked my table with the help of my in-laws and another friend I met at RootsTech 2017. The BYU conference attracted about 700 people, and many class attendees bought not one but multiple books. Although each conference experience is different, BYU became a baseline upon which to judge future conferences vendor opportunities. In the end, I broke even, but could I turn a profit that would allow my husband to retire from engineering and focus on genealogy education full time?

To read more about my BYU experience, read this post.

Shiny Carrots

RootsTech promotes its crowd size to potential vendors at around 15,000 patrons during the weekday conference and a Discovery Day crowd of 7,000. Andy and I focused on the 15,000 number which is 21% the attendance of BYU.  We didn’t expect to sell 21% the number of books that we did at the smaller conference, but we’d hope to sell 10% more. We were pumped and excited. If we did sell that much in product or services, we could have the capital we need to reinvest in all of our product lines.

Conference Curveballs

Unlike BYU and other smaller conferences, the RootsTech Expo Hall is open for three full days. Well, it was in previous years. I had hoped to use Wednesday as a full day of interviewing vendors, educators, and company personnel.

Andy and I would teach together on Wednesday before the Expo Hall opened, then we had separate classes on Thursday and Friday. Expecting a massive crowd on Saturday, we were excited to have no distractions for this full-day of booth engagement.

This year, the conference planners added an extra evening for the Expo Hall schedule. What attendees don’t realize is that this shift adds additional costs for vendors to be there earlier. One would think this would mean more sales, but it also means more man-hour costs and expenses that must be recuperated in the conference sales. In other words, each extra hour and day an Expo Hall opens, the break-even cost for vendors increases.

For us, having the booth open on Wednesday meant that we didn’t have a free day to socialize, attend classes and interview folks for our YouTube channel.  However, we would make plans to make this additional evening work.

In 2017, RootsTech had some major dead zones for booths near the Discovery Zone and Demo Theater. This arrangement negatively impacted the reach of several vendors. This year, RootsTech planners made a big deal about where vendors could purchase space. Planners based locations on the number of years an exhibitor had attended the conference. The only way around that limitation was to become a significant sponsor.

The first and second-year vendors would be located the far east side of the Expo Hall between the Discovery Zone and Demo Theater. The Planners shifted the Demo Theater to a location right in front of the Food Court. They eliminated a secondary food location and placed the Family Discovery Zone there.  A full aisle and two half aisles stood between these two main attractions.

Andy and I selected a position major thoroughfare between the main expo hall and the Getting Started Track rooms (155 A-D).  We have high hopes that there would be a lot of traffic as people would see us as they went to the food court. What we didn’t expect is that people couldn’t easily see our booth from the main exhibition hall as our booth faced the opposite direction.

Knowing the RootsTech Expo Hall would require significant efforts to cover the higher break-even costs and attract attention to what we nicknamed “Newbie Land,” we initiated many efforts to make ourselves known.

Stay tuned for Part 2 (Available March 29)

A First Time Vendor at RootsTech
Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

3 thoughts on “First Time RootsTech Vendor Perspective (Part 1)

  1. Interestingly, a few of the veteran RootsTech attendees told me they found the classes in the Expo Hall booths to be very practical, very focused, and therefore these attendees spent MORE time there than in the official conference sessions. Anyway, staying tuned!

  2. Marion, stay tuned. You're featured a wee bit in one of my posts. (I know, teaser right).

    Also, you're a sweetheart to walk the entire Expo Hall. I don't know that this was a large percentage of attendee's experience. Far too often, those who ventured to our booth to chat, not buy, said, "I didn't know this was over here."

    Others said with the lines to the classes being so long, they didn't bother to go to the Expo Hall except to the big companies at the front of the main doors.

    What's a company going to do?

  3. Can't speak for other attendees, but as a newbie attendee, I didn't realize there was a "newbie exhibitor" area and walked the entire exhibit hall, one end to the other, with anticipation and excitement. Will be interested to read your next post, because every time I came by to say hello, you were busy chatting with folks filling your booth! But chatting may not translate into covering costs and making a profit, I know.

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