RootsTech Connect, this year's virtual answer to scheduling a genealogy event as all-encompassing as last year's conference in Salt Lake City, has been the talk of many bloggers in the past week. And no wonder: while the conference, in the past, drew more than twenty thousand attendees at a time to the Salt Palace, no pandemic in the world could stop more than five hundred thousand family history enthusiasts from registering for its re-invented self this past week.
I was one of those folks on the fence about this whole deal. Admittedly, I have never attended a RootsTech conference live; rubbing shoulders with that many people is just not my preferred mode of learning more about genealogical research. That barrier, of course, would have been removed with this year's parameters—so what took me so long to make up my mind?
For one thing, while I do enjoy attending conferences—albeit on a more modest scale—my preferred learning mode has switched from conferences to week-long, in-depth venues like the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. RootsTech, on the other hand, has switched from the typical conference-style one-hour level of depth to offering some sessions of a mere twenty minutes length.
There was only one selling point that got me to change my mind—well, other than the updated price tag. Not only was this year's event free for all who registered, but the virtual breakout sessions, all pre-recorded, will be available to watch for nearly a year afterwards. Now, that is a bit more manageable.
And so, approaching the midnight hour for signups, I logged in to officially register for this year's event, RootsTech Connect. I followed that with two essentials (although I admit, one is really for fun). I took care of the task of setting up my playlist—which some have dubbed Netflix for Genealogy—and then I opted in to Relatives at RootsTech.
While that seemed a self-directing effort, judging from feedback, apparently it wasn't. After several members of our local genealogical society asked me for help accessing RootsTech—and believe me, I'm no tech guru—I thought I'd better compile some self-help links. As it turned out, there were ample resources posted both on the RootsTech website and through YouTube, not to mention the promised help of an army of volunteers for the asking with just a click on the website itself.
Most of those links served their purpose in guiding members to access the online venue, so I won't share here what I found—it is, after all, Day Three of the event now. However, there were a few other helpful posts which may still be pertinent to share, especially if you are still setting up your playlist.
From professional organizer Janine Adams, I gleaned her tips and picks for the event, including her reminder to access the chat rooms while they are still live during the event. Likewise, Gail Dever from Montreal offered her overview of the event's features. One RootsTech speaker and regular genea-blogger, Elizabeth O'Neal, also listed her specifics of the event to keep in mind, a helpful overview.
Of course, while guidance from respected others may be nice, I like the direct approach: I headed straight for the "sessions" listing to search for topics. And once I realized the search for speakers wasn't quite adequate, I took the detour to the "speakers" tab on the RootsTech menu. Easy peasy.
There are so many sessions to take in that it wouldn't be possible to watch everything in the limit of this three-day run. More than one thousand breakout sessions in eight focal areas—not to mention the variety of languages in which presentations are offered or translated—will play continuously as the conference chases the sun around the globe until this evening's closing session on the main stage.
There is, on the website, a "Guide Me" tab in the menu, but in case you'd like to have some others offer their point of view, blogger Randy Seaver has assembled a compendium of blog posts on attendees' take on the conference. From a legal point of view, Judy Russell offered her recommendations, and from a genetic genealogy slant, Debbie Kennett offered her list.
Keep in mind, while registrants may watch their selected playlist sessions on demand at any time in the year ahead, some events are time-limited. Besides the live chat sessions, the keynotes may only be available at set times, even if recorded. And the vendors at the virtual Expo Hall—and their demos and information sessions, as well as their chat sessions and special conference pricing for purchases—are mostly limited to the three days the conference is scheduled. With the limited time remaining, one quick way to gain an overview of the newer additions to the Expo Hall is through blogger Linda Stufflebean's two part post at Empty Branches on the Family Tree.
While I, for one, cannot wait until we return to in-person conferences—of the more modest variety, of course—the RootsTech team certainly must be congratulated for their enormous undertaking to convert their brainchild into a virtual experience. And kudos for their insight on how information hogs like myself couldn't possibly glom on to their every offering in just one glorious three-day stretch.