Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Life was so sweet and easy when I was four.

Happy Blogiversary to me. Happy Blogiversary to me. Happy Blogiversary dear Chart Chick. Happy Blogiversary to me.

If I'm 4 years old I can sing to myself can't I? Where's the presents?

Thanks for reading. I sure enjoy the writing.

Monday, March 12, 2012

WDYTYAL Marketing differences between England and America

I don't know that very many people will be interested in this like I am but I'm going to add this to my WDYTYAL analysis. I learned alot about how differently the consumers in America approach a "booth" at a genealogy conference vs. the way consumers in England approach a "stand." Perhaps any readers might glean something else here that we can learn about how to create a stronger genealogy community.

Broad Sweeping Generalizations Alert again:

The first thing we noticed was that very few people would take a flyer or sign up for our newsletter. We found this really different than American conferences. Like I said in the earlier post, in England they would look and analyze you, perhaps even pick up a flyer and read it, and then put it back down. In America I think we are in too big of a rush and everyone just wants to collect the contact information to be able to look at your website later. Perhaps it is a greater sense of environmentalism, or perhaps minimalism too because in America, two or three people in a group would each take a flyer, but a group in England would only take one to share. The question I was left with though is how do people remember what they saw at the show so that they can utilize these resources later?

Likewise, the British stands had very talkative displays, signs with paragraphs and paragraphs for you to read. In America I'd been taught that you have 3 seconds to catch their eye so you keep your display clean (which we're not terribly good at since we give the user so many options) and put the details down on the table or in the flyer. Again, it seemed I had a minute or two to catch a British person's eye. They would really stop and look. It was so refreshing. Perhaps I brought some of that calmness home and that is why I haven't been frantic to get these blog posts written immediately. Social Networking has given us Americans an even stronger sense of being hectic, so I've just been getting back to my British roots.

I thought it very interesting that there weren't many flyers or bowls of candy at the booths. In the States, we fill up big bowls of candy and hand out stacks of flyers. At WDYTYAL there were generally a few pieces of candy sitting on the table with the rest stashed behind a sign if there was candy at the stand. I generally think that candy doesn't attract a person to your booth for the right reasons, so it was interesting to see the differences there.

The biggest difference though was just in the way people interact with stand representatives. It was utterly fascinating. In America we go bounding up to people, all bright and smiley and engage them with what we are doing. If someone has to stand there for very long, they get impatient so when there are lots of people at the booth, you try to talk to a few people at a time, telling them to "let me know if you have any further questions." In the States, people will stand and soak it in a little, and then if they do want more information, they'll wait until you are free, but they expect to at least catch your eye quickly. If you were not to approach a consumer who came to the booth, you would be seen as standoffish and the American consumer would assume that you didn't want their business, or would be too hard to work with.

British consumers are the complete opposite. It seemed they don't want to be approached as much, they wanted to browse. And the people working the stands wouldn't talk to the consumer unless they were talked to. It was almost as if the person working at the stand was there as a servant--let me be at your beck and call. They stand at attention, quietly waiting, in case you need anything. In fact, when we looked away to another customer, or said "let me know if you have any questions," I think they were put off and would leave. It was as if I was a servant in an episode of Downton Abbey, or perhaps more closely, one of the shop girls in the Britcom Are You Being Served. The "shop keepers" were very attentive and would literally stand there for 5 minutes or more not saying anything. After a long while, at the most, they would say "Are you ok there?"

Well if you know Erin and I, you know that went against every grain of our bouncy, smiley selves. I felt like I was hovering to stand quietly at attention. It was against everything I naturally do. So we were in for a bit of a culture shock that way and found it a fun challenge to try to adjust. One time it was quite amusing, while talking to Dick Eastman, a customer came up, and in his generous way as he always does, Dick stood back so that I could attend to the other person. When I didn't say anything to the customer, but rather stood there, and then after a few minutes asked "Are you ok there?", I think Dick thought I was being rude. He wandered off so that I could be more attentive and I never had another chance to talk to him. I'm sure we'll have a good laugh next time I see him.

I'm sure there were lots of other things that were different, the use of color, the constructed stands (one conference organizer I talked to who had done shows in the States said she thought Pipe and Drape was strange :) I think it was nice to have a real wall to hang things on), the proper British spelling, and many other subtleties. I had several people tell us that we would be successful just because we were American. I'm not so sure. I got the impression that younger people loved the Americans more than the older people do.

I've traveled to most every continent on the earth, and we have customers from every continent (except Antartica :)) I love British TV, we've all listened to British music, of course British fashion is very influential here, etc, etc, I didn't expect our cultures and especially marketing to be so different. But with some further study I think we've generally got it figured out. The jury is still out, and the orders are still coming in but I think we'll be going back to WDYTYAL but with a whole different approach. It was a great experience and really exciting to get to try out something new. The world isn't as small as we had thought and that makes it all the more fun doesn't it?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What Americans need to learn from the British about Genealogy Conferences

There are two main points that sum up the differences between WDYTYAL and American genealogy conferences.

Alert: Broad sweeping generalizations again. I know it. Just my general observations. Don't take them all too seriously.

First, there is an exhibitors lounge but no speakers lounge. At WDYTYAL it is all about the vendors. There are only four classes going at a time and they are taught in open classrooms. The classes are on the outskirts of the vendors' hall, and they are only surrounded by a wall that is waist high. Thus you can come and go as you please, you can stand on the outside of the wall and eat a sandwich, and wander off it the speaker gets boring.

You can pre-purchase a seat in one of the lectures for a pound or two. But that is only if you think they are going to be sold out. Otherwise, you just wander in and out. Lecturers aren't paid. Even the well known lecturers make their living not from their lectures, but from an affiliation with a company, or from doing research. I was told they get paid 300-400 £ for lecturing to societies, but not a pound for speaking at this conference.

And that is again a major difference in American and British genealogy. The societies tables were buzzing--much more than the commercial side of the hall. The societies there are healthy and could afford to pay that much--here not so much. I think--but I'm not sure--that those societies are healthier than ours because it is all about the "Local History" and the experts that these societies have that are specialists in the history of the area. Again, it just doesn't translate here in this nation of migrants.

Secondly, British people come to the conferences to DO genealogy research. Americans come to conferences to LEARN HOW to do it. There was lots of research going on at WDYTYAL. Every large booth had computers in it where the users could try out a database, or free consultations where you could sit down to talk to an expert. The users would wait in long lines for their turn to talk to someone. When we have put up computers at our booths in America we have a hard time getting anyone to sit down and try it. Americans just want to get in and get out quickly, and then go home and do it later.

I'm not sure we can replicate that coming to DO genealogy at an American conference. In order to do that we would need to replicate the leisurely pace of the conferences and that's not the way conferences go here now. It was not rushed, but rather like spending the afternoon in the pub. I found that refreshing about England in general, and hated to come home to the rush and hubbub. When you go to your local pub for dinner, it may take you three to four hours to eat, no in and out so that someone else can have your seat like it is here. When we sat down to eat at one place, we had an hour before we needed to get to our show--after the waitress came 10 minutes later, we asked if we would make it and she said no. The other night, Kim and I were in and out of Chili's in less than an 1/2 hour to be able to get to a show here. Everything is just less rushed there and I like that much better.

Having paid 20£ to get into the hall, they weren't in a hurry to leave either. Here it seems you pay $300 to go to the lectures and so you are stressed to make the most of that. As you saw in the pictures, the tables and chairs that were all over the conference were constantly full. There was lots of food, and no reason to leave. We could do much better in the food department at our conferences. I think people are much more inclined to slow down and mill around when there is good food available.

I found the difference most striking when I was walking around the conference looking for information for my own research. I found myself taking flyers and pamphlets so that I could look at their information online later, because I was in too big of a rush to get on to something else. We got the feeling that the British people there weren't doing that at all. They would look at a booth, talk to the people, and analyze them right there and then.

I like the conference where you can come and DO your research. I think it works better than coming to learn, because in America you come to a conference and after the first day or so your brain is full. I see alot of beginners walking around conferences here with a kind of zombie look. Of course in England, the users only come for one day. It wasn't anything like the 3 day gorging on lectures we do around here.

It really boils down to a difference between a "home and garden show" and a scholarly conference. We're more relaxed when were out at the home and garden show. In America, genealogy conferences are built on the scholarly conference model and that will never get us a very large audience. If you haven't read Mel Wolfgang's blog posts on this topic, you should:

Genealogy Conferences Long Time Passing
The Speakers, Big Bucks and Maybe a Turducken
Some Thoughts on the Money Thing
Volunteers and the Exhibit Hall
If I had a Crystal Ball and A Magic Wand
Conferences and Events: Getting it Right

If we built our conferences to be closer to the boat show, or even the state fair, I think we would be able to attract more people to the hobby.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

WDYTYAL-What makes a successful genealogy conference--in pictures.

If you want lots and lots of people at your conference...Make sure you have a few excellent speakers. :)
Bring in an antiques appraiser.
Let them come to research their family history, not just learn how to research.
Add lots of local experts with one on one time.
Have great food. Above is the "Proper English Sausages" booth and here is my felafel/sweet potato wrap that was really good. There were smoothies and soup and salads. No need to leave.
Add a living history section where you involve the local woodworkers,
Historical reenactments,
The Lace Maker's Guild and etc.
Open Classrooms. You can buy an inexpensive ticket to reserve a seat, but you are also welcome to just saunter around. Classrooms were completely integrated into the vendor's hall.
Add an Exhibitor's Lounge. (There was no speaker's lounge) That speaks volumes to what was different doesn't it?

Encourage people to sit around and make a day of it. All of the 100s of tables and chairs were constantly full.
Add an Ask the Experts. Busy Busy Busy
Photography Daters. Our own beautiful Maureen Taylor sharing her expertise.
And then if you are really ambitious, you can even add a booth for training guide dogs.
Who doesn't love pictures of puppies at a genealogy conference ;)
We're going to work on some of these ideas for the upcoming UGA conferences. What do you think?

Friday, March 2, 2012

UGA's conference this weekend

I'm going to be Scheherazade here for a minute. In the middle of talking about going to find Trefusis, I'm talking about the Who Do You Think You Are Live Conference, and then in the middle of that I'm going to take a break and tell you about UGA's conference this weekend. I promise we'll get back to what I learned at WDYTYAL, and then we'll get back to the awesome things we found near Trefusis. We'll find our way back out just like Scheherazade.

If you haven't already signed up, you can register at the door for the UGA South Davis Conference this weekend at Bountiful High School. 120 classes on a myriad of different topics. The Friday night session tonight with Lisa Louise Cooke will be fun as she hosts "The Virtual Family History Amazing Race." Friday night is free and I'm sure you'll learn tons about how to trace your roots.

Registration on Saturday morning begins at 7am. The Keynote will be given at 8am by Karen Clifford. And you are welcome to bring a lunch to listen to our lunch speaker Tom Underhill. Details can be seen at UGA's website. I hope we'll see you there.

WDYTYAL--What has caused the excitement in England and why are they able to have so much interest in genealogy?

Again, I realize these are broad sweeping generalizations. These are my opinions and hearsay only. You can take them for what they're worth. The talk in the vendor's hall is where I get the real truth at home--I think I found a few pieces of truth in the vendors hall in London too.

According to some fellow exhibitors and the speakers I talked to, Who Do You Think You Are Live's best year was three years ago when they reached approximately 20,000 people. Last year the conference had approximately 14,000 and this year they were apparently down to around 10,000. I trust those approximate numbers better than any official numbers because I know as a vendor you have a good feel for what the numbers really are. Each of the days saw different people, and while I'm not as experienced at feeling such big crowds as a vendor, I'm thinking 10,000 to 12,000 felt about right compared to the 4,000 we saw at RootsTech a couple of weeks before. I'm told that the organizing company changed this year but that the marketing was not substantially different.

One well established vendor said he thought that although there were about 1/2 the number of people as in past years, he thought that the numbers of serious genealogists has increased. He said last year it felt that the serious genealogist were about 50/50 with complete beginners, but this year it felt like there were about 1/3 beginners to 2/3 more serious genealogists. He surmised that the tv show had brought them in and now many of the beginners were turning more serious. I would agree that we did not talk to as many beginner genealogists as we thought we were going to see.

As I asked around, I think the general consensus was that the hobby of family history has been building in England for about the last 10-15 years. There were a number of reasons people gave me for the surge in interest. The biggest one of course is the tv show Who Do You Think You Are. Apparently it is one of the bbc's flagship shows--not just another popular show, but one of the most popular. Then, in the last ten years there has been 5 major magazines. Though one person suggested the magazines as being a reason for the surge in interest, I think that magazines can't cause interest but rather ride the tide of the interest--you could start 5 magazines in America but they wouldn't necessarily succeed.

My observation is that the British are more inclined to be genealogists because they are closer to the history than we are here in America. Going to the local historical center gives a British person a chance to come face to face with their distant history in a heartbeat; experiences that are once in a lifetime for Americans. In fact, the study of family history is actually called "local history". The societies are very popular because the people in the societies are local history experts. If I was to become an expert in my local history, neither I nor my neighbors would have any family history connections to the area. That small society backbone is really important in England, but hard to replicate here because we all have to reach in so many different directions in our research.

Likewise history is just closer at hand and more real in Great Britain. One of the speakers I was able to talk to, Janet Few, laughed about hearing about an American genealogist getting excited over a 50 year old record. She said "heavens, my house is 400 years old". We aren't built that way in the States. Especially in the west, our archaeological digs are for history that goes back 100 years. In England that's just your normal redecorating.

I went to Who Do You Think You Are Live looking for what created the excitement there so that we could bring it home and create more excitement in this country. I think there are alot of things we should be doing to make the hobby more interesting and accessible. I'm writing next about how our conferences need to change. But one of my fears did play out, I think the British are already closer to their history than we are in America and perhaps more interested. There is a strong ethic here for striking out on a new path, becoming a self-made person. It's sad that the tv show isn't doing as well here. I'm afraid we're just not as close to our history.

Do you think I'm right?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

WDYTYAL--Pictures 1

The Hall
Family ChartMasters of course. I should get back down there and help Erin.
FamilySearch in a quiet moment.
My Heritage was always so busy.
Ancestry.co.uk. I heard rumors they paid 100,000 for that booth. It looked it. We watched them build it, paint it, and put up the vinyl lettering.
Lots of groups about military history. You should have seen the costumes.
In a queue to talk to the antiques expert. Antiques Roadshow UK style.
The Ancestry theater
Watching people come in. Fire and Safety is a BIG deal in England.
The society section later in the afternoon as the numbers started to dwindle. This was the happening place with lots of experts.
The Ancestry Member's Lounge upstairs.
The Pie Stop and Bangers and Mash. It was all about the food.