Can you believe that RootsTech 2018 is less than a month away? What an event it is shaping up to be, too! Just when I think they have announced all the goodies that could possibly fit into the four days, another amazing speaker or event is added to the line up. So much to choose from now that I am planning my RootsTech week. Let me share some of the wonderful options and tools I am using to get organized for all the fun.
Planning for RootsTech 2018
Just last week the 2018 data was released on the RootsTech app. If you haven’t used the app in previous years, go to your favorite app store and download it to your phone or tablet. The app contains all the info on teachers, classes, expo hall vendors, etc. You can build your schedule right in the app. You can also connect with other attendees and “friend” each other through the app. You are welcome to “friend” me if you would like. If you have downloaded the app in previous years, you need to open the app, click out to the main menu screen and click “Exit to Show List”, then select RootsTech 2018 to load this year’s conference data.
First up, I go to RootsTech to learn a whole lot more about genealogy.
Favorite speakers: Some of my favorite speakers who will be appearing at RootsTech this year include: Amy Johnson Crow, Angela McGhie, Lisa Louise Cooke, Michael L. Strauss, Devon Noel Lee, and Diana Elder. Check out their class offerings to see if you are interested in their topics. I also cordially invite you to attend my class: “Which Charles is Which? Sorting Same Name Folks”, on Thursday at 4:30 pm in room 255B. I will share strategies and a case study to help you separate out those same name folks you come across in your family tree.
What topics do you want to learn more about at the conference? There are plenty on DNA, methodology, photos, records, etc. I am particularly interested in learning about using DNA results in proof arguments to prove illegitimate parentage. I also want to expand my professional development, and learn more about military and federal records.
After you have selected the classes you want to attend, don’t forget to scroll all the way to the bottom of each class session page to download the handout for your class!
Next up, the Expo Hall is HUGE! So, you’ll want to set aside a few chunks of time to go explore there.
Expo Hall guide: The RootsTech app includes a section called “Exhibitors” which lists the hundreds of folks that will be sharing their products and services in the Expo hall. The hall is so huge that you are unlikely to make it through the whole thing. I highly recommend browsing the booth options and mark some of your favorite, can’t-miss booths to focus on. Once you have hit your favorite booths, wander and browse, but don’t get lost!!
Third, my family will be joining me for RootsTech on Saturday, March 3, for Family Discovery Day.
Family Discovery Day: I have reserved tickets for all of my children over the age of 8, so they can attend Family Discovery Day with me. The Discovery Day event includes keynote speakers: President Dallin H. Oaks and Sister Kristen M. Oaks, and phenomenal speakers and entertainers Hank Smith, Evie Clair, Kenya Clark, Alex Melecio, and Jason Hewlett. While Family Discovery Day is open to all, it does have an LDS religious emphasis. It is also FREE, but requires registration. I encourage you to bring family members who might be interested in learning more about their heritage to this inspiring part of RootsTech.
Lastly, the socialization!
There are many opportunities for concerts, luncheons, genea-friend get-togethers, and after parties to choose from to complete your fantastic RootsTech experience. I already have more in my schedule than will actually fit… decisions, decisions!
Melissa, I’m so excited about going too! I should be doing work and instead are reading blogs and checking out the program. Lisa Louise is one of my favourites too. I think I am a groupie!
Good luck with your presentation. I hope to attend. I have loads of Francis’s on both my mothers and fathers side so my parents called me Frances too. Your talk will help!
Fran, I do hope you are able to attend my class. I would really enjoy meeting you in person. 11 days left until all the fun! I wish you safe travels here to Utah.
Here is my review of RootsTech 2018.
Just returned from RootsTech, the monster genealogy convention in Salt Lake City. The presentations and exhibitors were amazing, as were the keynote speakers. Jason Hewlett, the emcee for the week was exceptionally good. The presenters were world-class, and material offered greatly beneficial.
The breakout sessions, which ranged from 14-20 per time slot, offered an amazing breadth of subject matter, and presenters were among the best in the industry from all over the world.
The paper syllabus (at $50), was nearly 2 inches thick as was heavy enough to throw out a shoulder. The $10 thumb drive was far preferable, though not knowing this prior to the event meant leaving the syllabus at my hotel. Having purchased the thumb drive, I doubt I will ever look at the volume-sized paper syllabus.
The RootsTech smartphone app was excellent but failed to integrate with the live event sufficient enough to inform the user that a given breakout session was already full, forcing 10-15 minute walks in the opposite direction to try and find an open session- only to be turned away again. Extremely frustrating.
The Salt Palace is certainly a world-class facility, on par with any of the conventions centers in the USA. It is clean, well-lit, and well maintained.
I am told there were about 32,000 attendees, certainly not too many for the size of the Salt Palace, but far too many for the breakout sessions offered.
Getting into sessions was a bit of a fiasco with the new scanning of individual name-tags for every session. Lines to get into sessions blocked the main thoroughfare creating gridlock at times, and it was often necessary to arrive in the line up to an hour before the start of a session in order to get in, as attendees who skipped the earlier time slot session were already waiting in line for upcoming sessions. Some sessions actually had empty seats, even though the door monitors refused entry, as their scanning software said the session was full.
Food lines at lunchtime were horrendous, also blocking the main convention center aisle for those simply trying to exit sessions, move to the Expo, or even leave the facility. Restrooms became overly crowded during breaks and floors could not be kept clean and free of excessive water at times.
Overall, the event was exceptionally good, and I will return, provided the planners address these issues. Of greatest importance, would be to either increase the number of breakout sessions per timeslot or increase the size of the rooms they were offered in. Overall, for a conference of this type, i.e., where people are moving about between breakout sessions, and all trying to purchase lunch from onsite vendors, in my own assessment, 32,000 participants is simply too may attendees for this venue. Either raise the price, cut off the registration at approximately 25,000 total, or select a larger venue. Or, take advantage of the entire venue, including the food vendor area at the back of the Expo.
By all means:
1. Take advantage of the data acquired from the scanning fiasco to increase the size of the rooms where sessions were full;
2. Use the online registration to determine the level of interest in the various breakout sessions so as to select room sizes based on attendee interest at the time of online registration;
3. Upgrade the RootsTech app to provide instantaneous information on breakout sessions, i.e., inform users of the app that a session is full so attendees are not wandering around a huge facility looking for an open session, only to use up the entire time slot, never finding a session to attend;
4. BETTER STILL: Allow attendees to select their breakout sessions at the time of online registration (or at any time after registering, but before the actual conference), so as to guarantee a seat for those who have the foresight to pre-register into breakout sessions, then allow for sufficient additional seating for those who make their breakout decisions after arriving for the conference; regardless of how you do this, by all means, allow people to BOOK their breakout sessions either ONLINE or on the APP (OR BOTH) so attendees are not turned away from sessions they specifically attended RootsTech in order to attend;
5. DO NOT prevent people from entering breakout sessions early- this created terrible human traffic gridlock in the main aisles of the facility; DO NOT have the lines to enter sessions extend out into the main aisle of the convention center- this was horrible! Use alternative entrances to the various sessions so that people exiting a session are not able to get out because the line to reenter is blocking the exit pathway; Do not make attendees who have preregistered for sessions that are in the same room as their next session leave the room, only to get into a line where they will not be admitted for the next session because it fills up before they can gain access to the next session- FIX THIS! It is critical to the success of RootsTech.
6. I noticed that the Food Vendor area INSIDE the EXPO arena was completely empty! BIG MISTAKE! Move the food, i.e. lunch vendors OUT OF THE MAIN EXPO AISLE, so that the lunch lines don’t block the entire event, shutting down foot traffic in the main aisle completely.
7. Move all of the vendors who had booths in the main aisle out of that thoroughfare, and either into the EXPO area or someplace where the lines those vendors create don’t cause gridlock in the main aisle of the convention center;
8. Add at least one additional RootsTech information booth closer to the N. Temple entrance of the facility (such as close to the area where the photo contest took place- maybe on that upper level, or close to the bag and coat check area) so that attendees are not forced to try and navigate the main aisle all the way to the far end of the facility just to ask RootsTech related questions. There were at least 3-4 different information booths throughout the convention center that offered Salt Palace information, but none of these people had a clue concerning RootsTech! Place a RootsTech info person (along with the Salt Palace info people) at each of these booths.
9. Plan on sufficient custodial personnel to ensure that restroom facilities remain clean and fully stocked at all times- dirty or unsanitary restrooms, especially excessive water on the floors of stalls are a major turnoff.
10. Never again, try to institute a new procedure, such as nametag scanning for breakout sessions without knowing the possible outcomes, i.e. gridlock, unwieldy lines, turn-aways, sessions where there were empty seats and monitors were turning away attendees (YES, it happened often- as monitors did not see empty seats in the middle of rows, etc); get your research on new ideas from places where it has been done before; in my very first breakout session with Diahan Southard and Lisa Louise Cooke, the session was delayed for more than 30 minutes, as monitors fist forced hundreds of attendees already seated to leave the room, creating a horrendous unmanageable crowd outside the session, then shouted to the crowd to go back in- failing to scan nametags at all in the process. Major fiasco during the opening breakout session of the entire week- left a really bad taste in the mouths of everyone. Actually called into question the planning capabilities of the RootsTech staff and planners.
Finally, RootsTech was an awesome experience- great event- will plan on returning- BUT, fix the issues listed above.
Dana, You have given a very thorough review and I appreciate your suggestions for how the conference can improve. I will forward this on to the producers of the event. Hope to see you at the conference next year, maybe with some improved traffic flow!