The Ultimate RootsTech Survival Guide

Survival Guide for RootsTech 2020 ~ 30 Tips for Success

For the 10th year, genealogists will descend on Salt Lake City, Utah to attend RootsTech 2020! How can you survive the largest genealogy conference in the US?

Andy and I attended our first RootsTech conference in 2015. We felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of class choices, the access to the Family History Library, and the demonstrations in the Expo Hall.

As our business has grown, we’ve seen many different sides to RootsTech and have discovered a few tips that will help you successfully navigate the 15,000 person crowds.

How to Prepare for RootsTech 2020?

Make a list and check it twice. Find out who is naughty or nice.

(Oh wait, that’s Santa Claus.)

Just like Santa makes a list, if you want to prepare for a successful genealogy conference experience, implement the following strategies.

Oh, and don’t forget to register! Register, visit http://www.rootstech.org.

RootsTech 2020 - Survival Guide for a Great Experience
Watch this video on YouTube.

Plan Your Class Schedule at RootsTech

  • Don’t choose classes solely based on their titles -- Catchy titles are designed to grab your attention but don’t rely on them alone. In 2019, several people thought our class “YouTube a Library of Genealogy Learning” was going to be a class on how to create a YouTube channel not how to find genealogy channels on the platform. Had the read the class description, they would have known.
  • Beware of Sponsored Classes -- Many conference attendees don’t like to be ‘sold to’ during classes. If you see “Sponsored Class” in a class description, there is a high chance you’ll hear a sales pitch (even a subtle one). Choose accordingly.
  • Don’t Take ONLY DNA classes -- Too many conference attendees devote their entire schedule to learning DNA. DNA is a difficult topic to tackle, so do the following.
    • Watch DNA videos on our YouTube Channel
    • Pick topics to supplement this learning
Playlist: Genetic Genealogy - How To Do
Watch this playlist on YouTube
  • Don’t Attend Livestreamed Classes -- you’re paying money to attend RootsTech. Stretch those dollars by skipping any class listed here and then go home and watch them. (You can even skip the Keynotes and explore the Expo Hall. It’s usually pretty quiet then -- hint, hint.)
  • Consider purchasing a Virtual Pass -- You can add 30 additional classes to your RootsTech 2020 experience by purchasing the virtual pass (link here). The great thing about this option is that you can watch and rewatch these lectures for an entire year!
  • Take a Family History Writing Class -- If you want to become a better genealogist, you need to write about your discoveries. Take a genealogy writing class! Or, learn how to write your story. (My class “5 Simple Steps for Writing the Story of You” will happen on Friday at 3 PM in room 250.)
  • Be Prepared for Labs -- For an additional fee, you can attend small workshops focused on writing, DNA, using Google Drive, merging profiles of FamilySearch, and using Trello. (Click here for a full listing.) BEFORE you register, be sure you have the skills required to attend. The workshops are not the time to learn how to sign in to Google.

How to Participate in Classes at RootsTech 2020

  • Print your class syllabi before RootsTech. On the RootsTech 2020 website, you can click on Agenda and then a workshop title to see links to each available syllabus. Be advised that not all workshops provide handouts. (Or if you’re a techie -- download the syllabi and preload them into your program of choice to take notes.)
  • Don’t plan on only photographing the presenter’s slides. Many presenters do not allow photography, so have a backup plan for taking notes. If you are allowed to take photographs of slides, keep it to a minimum so you don’t annoy your neighbor.
  • Audio and video recordings are not allowed.
  • Be brief with your questions if others are waiting after a class. If your presenter allows questions during a class, keep your questions brief as well. If you have a long question, set up an alternative time to chat with the presenter.
  • Share quotes and pictures of presenters on Social Media. Use #ROOTSTECH and their social account (i.e. @FHFanatics)
  • Choose your post-lunch classes well. Many of us need a nap after a morning of learning and a delicious lunch. If you’re tired, skip the workshops and head to the Expo Hall. If you’re uncertain, sit in the back of the class and make a quick exit if your neighbor accuses you of snoring.

Plan Your Research Time at RootsTech

  • Plan ahead to use the Family History Library
    • Know the extended library hours
    • Have a research To-Do list
    • Don’t research in person what can be found online
  • Don’t Bring Your ORIGINAL genealogical materials -- I would hate for you to lose your precious family history treasures, so bring copies.
  • Limit yourself to only bring 1 or 2 research binders. Leave the rest at home.
  • Have your password and logins to access your online trees -- you’ll have many opportunities to access computers at the library or ask questions in the Expo Hall, so have your logins and passwords handy.
  • Ask for help. The library has increased staff for RootsTech ready to address your questions. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance.
  • Bring a thumb drive to save your scans and digital copies.
5 Must Follow Tips For a Successful Genealogy Research Trip
Watch this video on YouTube.

Your Strategy for Exploring the RootsTech 2020 ExpoHall

  • Review the Demo Schedules. Ancestry, MyHeritage, the Genealogy Gems, and others have live demonstrations in their booths. Check the demo schedule as soon as possible and perhaps substitute these mini-lectures for a large class option.
  • Stroll the hall during off-peak hours. 11 am -- 2 pm and 6 pm until closing are very busy time blocks. Explore the Expo Hall during alternative times (even if you have to miss a class) and you’ll benefit by having more access to exhibitors to ask your questions.
  • Visit the Red Carpet at the Genealogy Gems booth. More exciting details coming soon, but make this a definite booth to visit right after you walk in through the main doors of the Expo Hall.
  • Make your purchases before Saturday. Unless you’re only attending RootsTech on Saturday, make your purchases at vendors before Saturday. That day is extremely busy and you’ll avoid the large crowds.
  • Take advantage of shipping. If you can order something and have it shipped to your home by the vendor, take advantage of that. You’ll avoid having to haul these items around or not having enough space in your suitcases for your trip home.
  • Look for bundles and upgrades. Some vendors offer bundles or upgrades during RootsTech. You can save a lot of money and receive many valuable additional resources through a conference special.
  • Take address cards. Many vendors will have the option to sign up for their mailing list or enter to win a prize. If you have small cards with your contact information printed out, you can save time when entering to win or signing up for a mailing list.

Plan for the Unexpected

  • Have backup batteries for your electronics. There are charging stations but having a backup portable power supply keeps you close to your schedule.
  • Bring your own bag. RootsTech typically provides a conference bag. However, how are you going to be able to tell the difference between your bag and 20 others that look the same? Bring your own bag and use the new bag when you return home.
  • Drink water, water, and more water. And then drink even more water.
  • Scan the crowd. You never know who you’ll run into. I have run into friends from around the country that I haven’t seen in years!
  • Introduce yourself. This is the conference where few will roll their eyes when you talk about your discoveries. Introduce yourself to others wearing RootsTech badges in hotels, on the Trax, or sitting in your classroom.

Whet Your Appetite for RootsTech 2020

There are a number of other tips I could share, but you’re better off spending the next two weeks whetting your appetite for RootsTech. Here are a few videos and blog posts with additionals tips or purely inspiration.

A Journey to Belonging Through Family History - RootsTech Film Fest
Watch this video on YouTube.

RootsTech 2020 Survival Guide

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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