Thursday, May 5, 2011

Genealogy Conference Vendors - My View

In Genealogical Conferences - The Magic Recipe, Thomas MacEntee encourages genea-bloggers to write posts this week about genealogy conference and seminar issues.  The topic for Thursday is supposed to be:

"Selling the Goods – on Thursday, May 5, 2011, we’ll discuss how vendors who sell their wares in the Exhibit Hall see the conference experience.  This will be an eye-opener for sure since most attendees think you just set up a booth and you are ready to sell. We’d love to hear from actual vendors about the process and the realities of selling goods and services at genealogy conferences."

I have no experience selling my wares anywhere (I have no wares!), so I will address this from the attendee's view point.

I greatly appreciate the vendors, suppliers and companies that rent exhibit space, set up displays and have sales and information personnel at genealogical conferences.  Some observations:

*  The purpose of these vendors is to publicize their products and to sell them, whether they are websites, databases, software, hardware, etc. 

*  I want the vendors to be successful - to sell out their products, to invest in new products, to excite the genealogy world, and to advance genealogical and fmaily history research.  They are great examples of entrepreneurship where visions become real products.  I doubt that any vendor "makes a killing" at a genealogical conference.

*  The larger genealogy companies rent larger exhibit space, and bring in a number of employees to answer questions, demonstrate products, and sell products.  These companies often have seating areas with a projector and screen showing short videos or presentations.  Some companies encourage visitors to try out their website or search for records.  They often have "show specials" with reduced product prices.  I usually know the company products fairly well, and now I recognize the names and faces of many of the company employees after several years of writing about them and meeting them previously.

*  Smaller, or start-up, genealogy companies may have static displays, paper handouts, and one or two persons (often the owner of the company) to discuss and demonstrate their products.  I love to talk to these people about their products and gather their material - it may be blog fodder.

*  Local, regional and national genealogical or hereditary societies often have exhibits at conferences.  Usually, these exhibits have a limited display, have handouts, and one or more persons (often these persons rotate in hour shifts) at the booth. 

*  Most exhibit areas have food options so that attendees don't have to leave the exhibit building.  These often include hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, drinks, snacks, etc.  I usually eat lunch at these during the conference.

*  Some conferences have a free day in the exhibit area.  Local researchers can take advantage of this opportunity to visit the exhibit area, interact with the vendors, and buy products. 

*  My guess is that most large vendors at conferences make money through their exhibits - through product sales, through database subscriptions, etc.  Otherwise, why would they attend year after year?  I'm not sure about smaller companies or companies trying to break out into the genealogy world - having these exhibits are important for publicity purposes, but conference appearances may not pay the cost of the exhibit space.  My guess is that the conferences with significant "buzz" and higher attendance produce more sales than others. 

*  As a genea-blogger of modest renown, I am occasionally invited by companies for "blogger sessions" to review the status of the companies products or new offerings coming soon.  These are enjoyable because I can ask questions from knowledgeable persons. 

*  I enjoy meeting and talking to the company representatives in the exhibit hall.  I learn quite a bit, often receive freebie handouts, and add to my knowledge base.

I look forward to the SCGS Genealogy Jamboree in Burbank, California in June, and the Federation of Genealogical Societies in Springfield, Illinois in September.

1 comment:

Judy Webster said...

I enjoyed reading your point of view. I have been a vendor at three different types of genealogy event, and the most difficult part is having to do everything on my own. The story is on Genealogy Leftovers.