The opening day of Who Do You Think You Are? Live! turned out to be almost exactly as expected. The hallways and aisles were crowded with thousands of genealogists. I didn’t get a headcount for today but the rumor mill says that more genealogists purchased tickets in advance of this year’s conference than the number who did so last year.
I took a lot of pictures today. As I write these words, my camera is struggling to upload all the pictures to the eogn.com web site over a very, very slow wi-fi connection in the hotel. I don’t believe it will finish until after I fall asleep tonight. Maybe tomorrow…
Despite the picture I posted yesterday showing exhibit stands being built, everything looked 100% ready this morning when the doors opened at 9:30. That’s another thing I like about Who Do You Think You Are? Live!: the Brits have very civilized start times for their conferences. None of them start at 8 AM! As you might guess, I am not a “morning person.” 8 AM comes early, 9:30 is more manageable.
One major difference between Who Do You Think You Are? Live! and the major genealogy conferences in the US is the difference in emphasis. The US conferences focus primarily on the presentations, workshops, and other educational sessions. Indeed, the Who Do You Think You Are? Live! conferences in England do some of the same but never have six or seven simultaneous tracks. At any given moment perhaps two or possibly three presentations are in progress.
In contrast, the Who Do You Think You Are? Live! conferences focus primarily on the vendors. The exhibits hall is in the center of the exhibition center. When attendees first walk into the conference, they have to enter the exhibits hall before going anyplace else. All the presentations are in classrooms that are reached only by walking through the exhibits hall. The results are obvious: most of the vendors were busy all day with potential customers. There were no “downtimes” when presentations were in progress. The number of people in the exhibits hall at any one time did vary from time to time, but the “buzz” never stopped. The few vendors I did talk with today were all smiling as their sales met or exceeded their expectations. The attendees I talked with today all spent a lot of time talking with vendors.
Maybe there’s a lesson here for organizers of US conferences?
Yesterday, I mentioned the National Exhibition Center offers free WiFi to all attendees, capable of 22,000 SIMULTANEOUS connections. I don’t know how many were connected simultaneously today but it must have been a high number. The connection speed was fast this morning before the exhibits hall opened but slowed to a crawl by mid-afternoon. Of course, almost everyone was walking around with “smartphones” and tablets. I am sure the wi-fi network was overloaded.
My personal highlight of the day was sitting in the cockpit of the World War II Spitfire fighter used by the RAF. I have a pilot’s license so can tell you the cockpit was (1.) cramped, (2.) well organized, and (3.) every necessary switch or other control was at the pilot’s fingertips. Visibility was also very good, something that is necessary in a World War II-era dogfight. The Spitfire earned a reputation of being the “sports car” of fighter aircraft of the time.