Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rootstech 2012 No Publicity is Bad Publicity

If anyone in the genealogy community, or any non-genea friend or follower on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, had never heard of Rootstech...they have now!

Wow, the posts and tweets were blowing up the feeds these last 48 hours. One thing is for sure...WE LOVE BOOKS!! As genealogists we can't imagine a world without a heavy, thick, musty smelling book to guide us to our ancestors. We love turning the pages and anticipating what gem we are going to find on the next page.

I will be disappointed if there are no book vendors at Rootstech 2012. By the last day of the conference I will have talked myself into and out of buying another book on finding my German ancestors at least a dozen times. I will have called my husband and told him just how cool this book is over and over until he finally says "just buy the damn book!"

My disappointment will grow when I see there are no craft vendors in the exhibit hall. I love using scrapbook pages to tell my family stories and I enjoy seeing how other crafters tell their family stories through their chosen design medium. I gain new ideas from them and usually find some little trinket that I can't live without.

The absence of these vendors will be noticed and they will be missed. Will their absence ruin the entire conference experience? No. From last year's reviews this conference will be amazing with fantastic speakers and a great learning and networking environment. Will the absence of these vendors move me to cancel my plans to attend? Absolutely not.

The exhibit management for Rootstech made a decision to limit the exhibit hall vendors to "technology related products and services" and have chosen to "purposefully not accept applications from book publishers or arts and craft dealers". These statements are published here:  Rootstech 2012 Exhibitor. While I find this decision to be a poor one, it is stated on the exhibitor application, the application that every potential exhibitor must complete.

Entering into a contract to exhibit at a trade show is like any other contract. You don't do the work until the contract is signed. Why did vendors proceed as if they had a contract, when in fact they didn't especially when there were very specific statements stating their particular type of product or service was not going to be accepted?

The word that has been tossed around these last 48 hours is "courted". Rootstech is said to have "courted" these very vendors that their exhibitor application says they are not going to accept. Who was doing the courting? Apparently somebody that was out of the loop on what management had planned for the exhibit hall. Was that all a misunderstanding? Did the vendors misinterpret the overtures from exhibit management?

Sadly all of this "hullabaloo" (love that word) leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many. The "shiny" Rootstech conference is a little duller these days. Rootstech has made a brief statement that they will "revisit" the issue...however that statement was a bit tardy in this day and age...especially for a technology conference.

As with any issue people are passionate about things are often said in the heat of the moment. I understand peoples desire to voice their opinion...that's why we blog right? It is disconcerting though when people feel they must attack people or beliefs. Let's stick to the issues.

I hope event management and the vendors in question are able to work something out. If not, those vendors need to jump into this spotlight quickly and make the most of it. People love to rally round the underdog. Have a "We've Been Banned From Rootstech" sale! Design "WE LOVE BOOKS" t-shirts we can all buy and wear to the conference. We can #occupyrootstech peacefully, yet still get our message across clearly.

Take those lemons and make some lemonade folks!!  See ya in Salt Lake!


  1. #occupyrootstech - brilliant! I know they have the right to do what they did (though the courting-turned-to-shunning of the vendors was incredibly crass), but it appears that the decision was backed up by zero marketing research. I've seen this model before in government and business - visionaries with talent start something, and then it is taken over by people who are ... not visionaries or talented.

  2. Great idea about the sale and the t-shirts!

  3. I have a feeling that the application currently on the website is not the application that many of these vendors completed. My guess is that it has been changed since then. They couldn't ALL have misread it - particularly when they would have had to select an area of focus (and books isn't on the list).

    RootsTech has the right to invite whatever vendors they want. I get it. It was the way they went about it that bothers me.

    And it's not only that some of them were shunned ... at least one of them was ASKED to come teach a class, made arrangements to be a presenter, and then was told they were not allowed to have a booth. How can you be "techie" enough to present, but not "techie" enough to have a booth?

    I just think the whole thing was poorly handled.

  4. The line about book publishers not being accepted was added. It wasn't there when we applied. However, no harm was intended. I believe they just didn't think it through. Yes - as genealogists, we love our books. Gordon called me this morning and offered us 3 booths, which we accepted. And we both apologized to each other for having disrupted each other's lives...
    Leland K. Meitzler, Family Roots Publishing Co., LLC

  5. Leland, I am so glad this has been worked out. The fact that the guidelines on the exhibitor application were changed mid-stream is troublesome. The change in policy at such a late date shows a lack of experience in event management in my opinion. I am looking forward to seeing and chatting with you again in Salt Lake!

  6. Hi Jenna, I'm glad to know you will be in Salt Lake and looking forward to meeting you at last! Maybe over a book or two!

  7. Denise, it will be great to finally meet you!! Can't wait! :)