Dear RootsTech: Let’s Make the 2019 Conference Awesome

Dear Rootstech,

I just returned home from the 2018 RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City yesterday.  And what a conference it was.

This was my first experience at RootsTech, and I’ve shared it day-by-day with my readers.

Truthfully, although I did have a lot of fun, it wasn’t BECAUSE of the conference sessions, but IN SPITE of the problems. I was intent on making lemonade out of lemons. The conference itself was very disappointing in many ways, but awesome in others – and has so much rich, unfulfilled potential.

RootsTech, I think, based on the attendance and facility, you’ve become a victim of your own success. Perhaps you need to step back, take a breath, engage in heartfelt reflection and regroup.

I’ve always told my kids and employees not to bring me a problem without potential solutions, so I’m doing the same for you. I even asked my blog followers to contribute as well and have incorporated their suggestions. So, if this kind of sounds like a “sit down and listen” mother talk, that’s because it is:)

RootsTech, I really hope you’ll read and listen carefully and thoughtfully – and then retool to make the necessary changes.

In a nutshell:

A $2000+ trip to visit with people when you planned to attend educational sessions that were full beyond capacity and be repeatedly refused admission after standing in very long lines is simply not acceptable!

Let’s fix the problems going forward.

  • An apology goes a long way. You screwed up, plain and simple. Acknowledge the problem. At least a partial refund to the attendees because we all were significantly impacted, along with a statement that you are going to address this issue by next year, and possibly how, would go a very long way. Many people plan for next year’s conference now – and I can tell you from talking with many attendees that they aren’t planning to attend next year.
  • Extremely long registration lines – Find a way to eliminate the two and a half hour wait to register. That too is unacceptable and without justification. No, I don’t care WHY it happened. Period. Full stop. For the amount of money that this conference plus trip costs, if you need to charge an extra $10 to mail the badge and bag in advance, then do it. Please hear this loud and clear. The registration line was full of people old enough for senior discounts, in pain. No excuses – just fix the problem.
  • Sessions unavailable due to being overfull. The sessions (especially DNA sessions) were so popular that they were often filled to capacity long before the session began. On the first day, NONE of the ballrooms had empty seats, and people who had just finished standing in line for two and a half hours couldn’t get into the sessions they wanted. Perhaps having people pre-register for the session they are most interested in would help with sizing rooms adequately. Having to stand in line for an hour and a half, or more, to get into a session means that you can’t attend a previous session, and in many cases, the people in line were STILL not able to get into the session.
  • Standing in very long line for every session, and still not getting in. Many people simply cannot stand in line for hours, repeatedly, and this should not be required in order to attend the conference sessions. Otherwise, you should state before registration that the conference requires that level of physical ability multiple times daily AND that after standing in long lines for an extended period, you’re still not going to get into several sessions. Many people would not have attended had they known what they faced and those who did attend would have had their expectations set correctly.
  • Reach out to planners of other large conferences outside of the genealogy sphere that utilize electronic registration much more effectively and do not encounter these issues.
  • Handicapped Access – There are not enough elevators for effective handicapped access, especially since an exorbitant amount of standing/walking was required. More people in the future will avail themselves of scooters, because many people simply cannot stand for the required lengths of time, which will compound this problem. Additionally, several times the escalators were not functional.
  • Layout of session rooms combined with turning people away meant that many were frustrated and unable to attend sessions. Trying to find a second session that wasn’t full, especially with the rooms distant from each other, meant that you simply couldn’t attend any session for that timeslot. I attended a grand total of 1 session, and that was because I volunteered to help the speaker. In essence, I finally gave up trying due to the long lines and repeated frustration.
  • Many people simply gave up trying to get into sessions they wanted and looked for the session they felt would be least popular and tried to attend that session. It’s absolutely unacceptable for conference attendees to have to devise strategies such as this to attend sessions.
  • Spillover rooms with large screen monitors would be helpful for incredibly popular sessions, even if they were in scattered among adjacent hotels. I don’t care if I see the speaker physically – I want to hear the message and without standing in line outside of every room.
  • Capacity and facility – Determine what your capacity actually is before the problems on this list emerge, and close registration when your capacity has been reached.
  • Expo Hall – The flip side is that the expo hall was very popular, because people couldn’t get into sessions, so the vendors weren’t nearly as unhappy as the attendees. This isn’t a competition between the classes and vendors. I like the idea of scheduling some time where there aren’t sessions so that attendees don’t have to choose between seeing the expo hall and attending (or missing) sessions. This is, of course, assuming that you address the capacity problem and attendees actually can attend sessions.
  • Beginner sessions focused on Saturday – Consider making the main RootsTech conference Tuesday through Friday for intermediate and advanced, with Saturday fully open with only beginner classes. More advanced attendees can plan accordingly.
  • Signage would be a huge help. For example, multiple “you are here” signs throughout the building with room names and numbers indicating the location you are trying to find.
  • Vendor map – A large map/sign enabling attendees to find vendors in the expo hall would be very useful. You provided a “map” but other than the largest vendors, it only showed booth numbers. Finding specific vendors was a challenge.
  • Announce luncheon and keynote speakers well in advance. Other major conferences do, and RootsTech should be able to follow suit.
  • Adding on paid sessions – After a ticket is purchased, in the conference schedule application, if you discover that you want to attend a lab or sponsored meal, there is no way to add that onto your schedule. Or, if there was, I couldn’t find it. When I click on that event and star that I’d like to attend, either indicate that it’s full, or allow me to pay.
  • Track capacity – Conversely, on the schedule, don’t allow me to select a session or event that is already full to capacity.
  • Pay the speakers – Compensate the non-vendor speakers, meaning people who are not speaking for an employer who has a booth at the conference. I’m not referring to keynotes either, who, given what I know about (some of) their speaking fees, are compensated. Not compensating speakers (other than a pass to a conference) sends the wrong message that genealogists are expected to provide free services and have no or little value or worth. Not OK. Really NOT OK. Don’t egotistically presume that speakers are going to be “attending the conference anyway.” RootsTech needs to step up and be a leader instead of building the conference on the back of unpaid others. This is not how ethical leaders in any industry treat other people, let alone people of the talent and caliber that speak at RootsTech. This would also allow RootsTech to select from all speakers, not just ones that are willing to work for free or token compensation. Being expected to work for free is a demeaning message.
  • Vendor demo agenda – Provide a secondary agenda listing the locations of vendors providing sessions in the expo area. I realize you may see these as “competing” with the larger sessions, but in this case, that might be the only way for an attendee to see a speaker or a topic of interest – given that the general sessions were full and required standing in long lines, best case. I only discovered the vendor sessions quite by accident.
  • Subscription virtual conference – Since attending the conference doesn’t mean you can see the sessions you would like, consider a subscription “conference” where purchasers can see the livestreamed sessions, but also receive access to the other sessions as well. This might be popular with people who do attend, as part of a conference package because there are often multiple sessions in the same time slot that attendees would like to see, but can’t. Sending a thumb drive to all of this year’s attendees with all of the recorded sessions would go a long way towards that apology.
  • Luncheon timing and space – Given the distances between rooms, the luncheon sessions were packed too tightly against before and after sessions. Some luncheons were too full, with long lines and no place in the room to sit.
  • Scanning badges upon entering rooms was a significant bottleneck. Requiring attendees to leave the room after the previous session and go to the back of the line simply assured that if you were actually in the previous session, you certainly weren’t going to be in line in time to be admitted to the next one in that room. Additionally, some people felt that scanning badges was an invasion of privacy.

It’s understandable that snafus happen, but these issues together combined to create a rather miserable experience if an attendee wanted to do much of anything except visit the expo area.

Things I Liked:

  • The teal-shirted volunteers were absolutely amazing, especially given that the attendees were often extremely unhappy about the situation in which they found themselves.
  • The variety of speakers and sessions was great – which is also why the sessions were so popular and filled beyond capacity.
  • I loved seeing and visiting with the vendors, large to small.
  • Meeting other attendees, my blog followers and cousins.
  • Livestreamed sessions. I’ll be watching those now that I’m back home.

Readers – Please Help!

If you know anyone with any influence at RootsTech or FamilySearch, please forward this article or link. Let’s make sure RootsTech actually sees this article and addresses these issues in a positive manner so Rootstech can be a totally awesome conference in 2019!

______________________________________________________________

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95 thoughts on “Dear RootsTech: Let’s Make the 2019 Conference Awesome

  1. And, perhaps RootsTech should FIRE the person/s responsible for orchestrating the event; and HIRE a new, capable team who has a proven track record. Business 101

    But, it WAS probably a success in the eyes of RootsTech. THEY WALKED AWAY WITH THE MONEY!

  2. Wow, Roberta! Do you know if similar problems can be anticipated at the NGS Conference in Grand Rapids in May of this year, in which case I will cancel my plans to attend it.

      • I have been to three NGS conferences and loved every one! Occasionally a popular speaker like Elizabeth Shown Mills will fill up, but most of the time the conference allows a double space for her.

      • Both NGS and FGS have some crowded sessions but nothing like what you experienced. They seem to be managed much better. I attended Rootstech a few years ago and it was busy but I was still able to get into most of the sessions I wanted to attend. I think it’s grown way out of control. I have heard that the year they combined with FGS was so crowded it was awful . Sounds like it was that bad or worse this year.

        Interesting note: I watched several of the live streamed classes and the rooms were only half full. WHY? Where were those classes? Were they hidden from the people who were at the conference? They were mostly put on by vendors, “My Heritage” and “Ancestry” but they were worth the price (free).

    • I have been to several NGS & FGS conferences, both as an attendee and vendor. I have not waited in lines to get into any sessions. Lines for the bathrooms in between sessions can take extra time, but that’s to be expected. The registration process is similar to RootsTech, but because there are not thousands of people descending upon the registration desks at one time, it is manageable, and the wait isn’t long. I’m not familiar with this year’s location, but most venues NGS picks are quite adequate for the expected attendance. I always enjoy my experiences when attending an NGS or FGS conference.

  3. I also attended (for the 3rd time), encountered most of these problems, and don’t plan to go next year. It’s surprising that a conference named RootsTECH could not make better use of technology to create a better customer experience.

  4. 100% in agreement with everything you wrote about RootsTech!!!! I last attended in 2015 and will Never attend again unless they change all the things you mentioned. There is also the impact on the city, motels/hotels, restaurants and just trying to walk around the conference area. It is one thing to try to be the largest conference, but not when you offend those who are paying to attend and being grossly abused, especially because most of them cannot attend the classes, and might not even to be able to attend the luncheon sessions. I sincerely hope that the powers that put on RootsTech pay attention and regroup and developer a much better plan for 2019. Thank you, Roberta for your analysis of RootsTech and most of its faults and your offer of possible solutions is well thought out and should be very workable.

  5. Sorry your experience at RootsTech was frustrating. Hopefully the planning committee will take your suggestions seriously.

    Additional ideas: select a larger meeting venue, allow people to pre-register for sessions, offer the most popular sessions twice, televise overflow sessions, ensure adequate seating, provide captions for the deaf, scan badges at front door only.

  6. Well said Roberta. We attended RootsTech 2013. Never again. Too big, too busy, too much hype and not enough tech. Prior to 2013 RootsTech had the reputation as the place to go for family history tech. It seems that that all changed in 2013. On the plus side RootsTech, although the main reason for going, was for us a just part of a superb two months holiday to Australia, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico. Salt Lake City itself, the LDS library and temple etc were wonderful. i think the solution is to run the physical RootsTech in a more efficient way for those that really want to attend in person. For those that do not want to attend, provide streamed/recorded access to every session online so that no one needs to complain about missing a session.

  7. As a teacher I’ve attended more conferences than I can remember. The best ones used these techniques for avoiding chaos: 1. Multiple sessions on the most popular topics. 2. Free periods each day either before or after sessions and during an extended lunch. 3. Pre-registration with confirmation available by email or at a booth separate from those registering on site.

    • Lost my previous reply (long) because I had to log in to Word Press to post it and then it was gone. Agree with everything Roberta said and suggested as remedies.Neither escalators nor elevators were marked on the physical map distributed and, having pre-registered in October and never hearing back after at that time receiving my receipt, I was horrified to find No Written Schedule in my bag/attached to my badge. Yes, the phone app was magnficent but it took time t learn how to use it. Also, the closing event was blocks away and there was a parade (!!??…on the verge of a snowstorm) to get there. As a handicapped individual (who does not want to start using a scooter!), that seemed totally out of the question and a rather cruel trick to play on the many elderly and handicapped who attended. Labs I paid for were more like lectures, were not interactive enough and certainly not worth the extra $. Make all recorded sessions available to those who attended and were so disappointed and frustrated!!

  8. The lack of sufficient payment as a speaker is why I will not attend RootsTech any longer, unless that is remedied. I averaged an $800 loss (airfare from Michigan & hotel) as a speaker in 2015, 2016 & 2017, despite getting the “bonus” each year and being livestreamed in 2017. None of the societies who bring me in to speak to their members have said they first heard me at RootsTech, nor do I pick up new clients there, so I cannot justify it as a marketing expense.

  9. I have to agree with many of your observations. Lines to attend sessions were already long BEFORE the previous session ended! Often I would emerge from a session, intending to go to ballroom next door, and be unable to get into the next session–despite being five steps away from that meeting room. Excellent speakers, excellent variety of topics, just difficult to get into the most popular sessions. And the wait to obtain a badge and bag was WAY too long. Email me the badge, let me print it at home, let me pick up the bag whenever I wish during the conference. Thanks for furthering this conversation!

  10. I am unable to attend Rootstech because my work schedule is at it’s busiest during this time of year. However, I took full advantage of many of the livestreamed programs. I looked at the schedule for many of other programs and would have loved to have seen them. I’d consider paying a registration fee just to be able to watch other classes and I don’t even care about seeing them live if they could be archived instead. I’m sorry to hear about all the trouble and hassle this was. Makes me glad I was not able to attend.

  11. Thank you, Roberta. That needed to be said, and you did a great job. I gave up all conferences after the first RootsTech. The experience was too painful. I wish those of us who can’t make the trip could purchase a flash drive of all the sessions. That would make the attendance more manageable, and RootsTech could still make money.

  12. I believe you’ve hit all the important items that need to be changed. As much as I would love to be able to attend RootsTech, after reading the coverage you provided, I realized that it would not be something I could or should do. It would even make sense to change the city where the event it held (yes, I know the FamilySearch library is there) to a place where conventions are held on a regular basis. I know there are enough other cities with venues to more than handle the number of people who attended. I certainly did not know that the speakers were basically unpaid, that is flat out wrong. It is also disappointing that the planning was so poor. They must be aware of the amount of growth that has taken place with their attendance. I would love to see all the classes and sessions available to watch online (I couldn’t afford a large fee but I would be willing to attempt a small one, perhaps a modest amount per class or session). I agree, that an apology of some kind should be forthcoming as well as a return of some sort for the amount of money spent for attending.
    Considering the cost of hotel, airfare, food and miscellaneous items, plus the conference fee, I would not have been able to attend. Then finding that I would have been effectively prevented from attending any of the classes would have been beyond my toleration (the long lines would have been more than enough as I am physically disabled and standing is pretty much impossible for more than a very limited few minutes). I will not even consider physically attending in future now that I know how things were this year.

  13. Reblogged this on Lineage Hunter and commented:
    Please read this post as well as the others linked to in it. I find the lack of adequate planning unreasonable. I also want to make sure that others in the genealogy community are aware of this as well as RootsTech. Perhaps a more virtual conference would make more sense. Certainly something must change for RootsTech to continue.

  14. I have severe arthritis. I saw these problems developing several years ago and have simply opted out. Many things you mention as problems seem based on greed.. Attending some of the Saturday afternoon sessions required staying another night.A respite room for elderly/frail attendees might be a welcome addition.

  15. Thanks Roberta. Your comments were right on point. I did not attend this year but I have attended in 3 past years and can tell you that these problems are not new. Every year has seen the same issues. I don’t ever recall receiving a post conference survey for RootsTech like I have for several other major conferences I have attended over the years. It’s puzzling why they don’t do this and may explain why they have made no perceptible changes to improve conference management. It is SO disappointing to travel across the country at great expense to attend and then not be able to get into the rooms.

  16. I have always wanted to attend but never did. The time away from my household and the expense are genuine obstacles for me. I think I will stick with 5-day Institute classes and a 1 or 2 conferences per year.

  17. I agree with everything you said. This was my third year and possibly my last unless I get some assurances that this year’s fiasco will not be repeated. It took all the fun out of it. Repeatedly I missed classes because they were full. Not good. RootsTech you need to listen up and fix the mess you created. I think there were just two many people for the venue to handle.

  18. I agree with everything you wrote here. This was my first time attending RootsTech, and I am not planing on going again. It was just too frustrating. I would pay for a streaming conference, instead.

  19. This was my second year attending RootsTech and the 7th year for my host. I lay a lot of the blame on the badge scanning snafu. In previous years, it was possible to move directly from one classroom to the next and save your seat for the upcoming session. This allowed those less able bodied to sit if they wish rather than standing in line, or to visit the restroom or Expo hall. As you may have noticed, by Saturday, they were no longer scanning. There was room in each of my classes and no problem getting into the sessions I wanted. I suggest they go back to that.

    In one instance, I waited in line for a half hour, then was seated in a classroom for another hour. Then, when the speaker got up to talk, he informed us that there was an error in the course title. The topic was not one I was interested in, so I left. Thankfully, that allowed room for some folks outside the door to get in.

  20. I appreciate your take on things. I looked forward your blog each day! Roots Tech has been on my bucket list since its inception. However, if classes are not a guarantee, I may rethink how my hard earned money is spent.

  21. I appreciate your take on things. I looked forward your blog each day! Roots Tech has been on my bucket list since its inception. However, if classes are not a guarantee, I may rethink how my hard earned money is spent.

  22. Well said!

    There is one more thing that bugged me (and there was no opportunity to comment on this in the RootsTech feedback I received): they *forced* us all to answer questions about our age, gender (Male of Female only) and whether or not we have had DNA testing performed in order to register! There was no opt out for these questions.

    My wife is a professional researcher (PhD) who has made several presentations at RootsTech. She contacted them and pointed out that forcing us to answer those questions was unethical, and suggested that adding a ‘I prefer not to answer’ choice would resolve the issue (fortunately that was an option on the ‘Religion’ question). Their response (and disinclination to make any changes) was enough to make her stay home this year.

  23. I love the fact that you actually offered possible solutions and didn’t just complain. I didn’t attend, but I must say, based on your input, there are some real problems that need to be fixed right away. I hope they listen, as I’m sure you’ll find many more people who agree with you than you will that don’t agree.

  24. I have wanted to attend this conference, but I’m not going now. I read somewhere else that the problem — beyond all the logistics — is RootsTech is two conferences: a conference for serious genealogy people and a conference for Mormon/LDS church members to focus on “family.”

    I have my own issues with FamilySearch. How can so many people who support RootsTech ignore the fact they actively discriminate against members of the LGBT community and not allow couples that are legally married in America to be reflected on the FamilySearch website? If you are a genealogist, or a vendor, or a speaker and you went to RootsTech and supported this confab, you are condoning discrimination. I don’t care if this is how you earn your living. You are condoning discrimination. Period.

    The Forum of the 12 and the first presidency (yes, you Russell Nelson and Dallin Oaks) discriminates against LGBT people. By attending this conference as a participant or as a speaker, vendor, or attendee — you are saying discrimination is ok. It’s not ok. Did you know Utah has one of the highest rates of young gay people committing suicide in America? Gay kids in Utah are made to feel like they are outcasts. Don’t spend a nickel on RootsTech until the Mormons stop discriminating.

    Add to this the fact they don’t pay speakers and it appears they can’t manage the logistics and no thank you. As a serious genealogical researcher who believes in equality, I cannot in good conscience support discrimination.

  25. Thank you for saying exactly what many of us want to say. The line to check in was beyond belief, nearly 3 hours. Unless serious changes are made, not going is a better option when you add in all the costs. I was only able to barely get into 3 classes on Tuesday and that is it and yet I should have been able to attend many other classes.

    You did mention the Vendors but many left the vendor area to stand in line to get a seat. Depending on their success and frustration level would determine whether they would return to the vendor hall or go stand in line for another class way ahead of time, so it did have an impact on the vendors.

    It is definitely time to regroup and correct this or many will not return.

  26. I have attended numerous national conferences of the American Chemical Society of 12000-15000 attendees Sometimes a really hot topic used 2ndary rooms with AV and speakers to cope with expected overflow on hot topics and Nobel prize winners talking , etc. Once we got our registration badge , that was all it took to walk into a conference room NO badge checking linesat conf rooms ! There were checks on having a badge to go to the big vendor shows
    The many snafus reported show a lot of poor management

    Another issue I have a cane that unfolds into a triangular stool -useful for protest marches etc or standing in lines .

  27. Roberta, I know you are also a quilter. I suggest you tell the Rootstech people to talk to the people who put on the International Quilt Show in Houston. This is one of the largest conventions in Houston and it runs sooooo smoothly; it is a joy to attend. Which I have done for the last 10 years along with another 50,000 quilters from around the world. Probably the venue is larger than in Salt Lake, but it is not a reason for the Rootstech people not to be organized. At the IQS there are even scooters available for rent for the folks who need help going around. All the classes are in a catalog on line and is published in July. Those who have been to the show before have a few days to register ahead of everyone else and then it is open to everyone. The show is in November and the sign-up starts in July. You can give your preference for classes with an alternate. You can always get a class, even if not your first choice and you get a print-out with all your classes and various lectures on it. If there are empty spots in November, than you can purchase it and attend. Also they put in place a FREE system of buses to go from and to the show to several hotels downtown Houston. Boy does that save you time and energy! One more thing: they save some room for the husbands of the quilters who have accompanied their spouses, but don’t care about the quilts. There are big TV’s and many confi chairs available to them. I am sure some spouses don’t care about genealogy, but have come along with their better half to please and have fun in other ways. What do they do at Rootstech?

    But then this quilt show is put on by WOMEN!!!!!! No wonder, it runs so well and has been for the last 40 years!!!!

    As far as this year’s Rootstech, I watched from my desk chair many of the free lectures. I was a little disapointed to realize that some of them where just a HUGE commercial. I was envious of all those who went, but after reading your post and all the comments, I will satisfy myself with the free videos.
    Thank you for telling it like it is. Sorry for being so wordy.

      • Roberta, can you copy and paste your comments into the survey they sent out? They have extended the deadline to reply until March 10th…Thanks for your excellent analysis and pertinent suggestions as to how to fix this in the future and compensate the misery experienced by many of us this year. You forgot to mention the ludicrous idea of a parade to the closing event venue…on the verge of a snowstorm and for the many many elderly and handicapped individuals in attendance that was a rather cruel plan.

  28. My suggestion: NO questions taken by the speaker in front of a 500 + audience!! That is RUDE of the question-asker and RUDE of the speaker to pander to that person, period.

  29. Roberta, as you said:
    “A $2000+ trip to visit with people when you planned to attend educational sessions that were full beyond capacity and be repeatedly refused admission after standing in very long lines is simply not acceptable!”

    Obviously, it IS now acceptable. If it isn’t acceptable, why do you (that’s meant as the impersonal, not the personal ‘you’) keep doing it?

    The genealogical community needs to wake up to the fact that this activity is now primarily a profit generating business and those who are willing to pay more $$$ without resistance are being controlled by it. Apparently “business is booming”. These providers/conferences have more customers than they can handle – because their customers are willing to pay any asking price and then be abused for the privilege, after they parted with their money. Making a profit is legal, and suckers abound. Complaints voiced afterward are meaningless – they are too little, too late.

    So what is the plan that many businesses use to exploit their customers? Either/and/or raise the price of admission and/or restrict the product or service that was promised and/or received. Under the law you can sue for a faulty product – but you can’t successfully sue for a service rendered, such as that of a bad performance, including that of receiving a bad haircut.

    For change to happen in any sphere of life, “push has to come to shove”. All those of you who attend these conferences need to vote with your purses or wallets, and also vote with your feet. Do you have the will to resist and to reject it? Or not?

    I hardly see that as ever happening much in this realm. As long as most who attend these sessions allow themselves to be willingly exploited by those that control the field, they will continue to be controlled and exploited. It seems that more people than ever enjoy being fooled and fleeced.

    • Yes, “exploit” is a good description of the events. Other words that come to mind are “sham” “scam” and “bait and switch”.

      Since a good majority of the folks were elderly, this is also “elder abuse” on many levels.

      A refund for all should be expected; and they should be reported to some governmental “watchdog.”

      People can only abuse us if we allow it……..

      Come together, and hire an attorney. Make a statement even if you do not get a refund.

      No, I did not attend. I am just an advocate.

  30. I attended RootsTech once and will not again until I have heard things have changed. The registration process has always been long and unnecessary. There are no classes for intermediate and advanced genealogists [even the ones that say they are intermediate are not]. Signage has never been a thought for the conference. They are good with taking money and not so go at utilizing the fees for the attendees. RootsTech for me seems to be more of a social event than a learning event. I do enjoy socializing but my money is currently being used for advancing my education and not my social skills. I wholeheartedly agree with you.

    • If you are looking for intermediate and advanced topics, you should consider attending one of the genealogy institutes – SLIG, GRIP, or IGHR. The Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) is held every January. Their 2019 lineup of 5-day courses is mostly geared toward the intermediate and advanced genealogists. Registration is in early July and once a course is filled, it’s closed. There is no overcrowding and the experience is wonderful. I’ve attended 15 SLIGs so far and I’m a better family historian for it. Their website is https://ugagenealogy.org/. Click on SLIG 2019 and you can download the list of courses. New for 2019 is the SLIG Academy for Professionals that begins the following week. The Genealogy Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) runs in the summer months. Registration has been open for a while and some courses are filled. Their website is http://www.gripitt.org/. IGHR Georgia Genealogical Society took over IGHR Sanford University, Birmingham. The conference is in Athens Georgia in June and their web address is http://ighr.gagensociety.org/. Each institute selects the best instructors who share their knowledge with their students.

  31. Yes this trip was @ $2,000 for me & my 1st time at RootsTech. I stayed a few extra days to visit the Family History Library. More to add on this topic:
    – What the heck was up with no hot water at the sinks? I did not appreciate having to wash my hands in ice cold water!
    – I want some kind of refund. Sessions that motivated me to attend were too full. Once I was given a seat in the hallway straining to hear the speaker. The speaker across the hall also had her door open & people sitting in the hall to listen. One worker told me the problem was that scooters were taking up too many seats. I wasn’t in mine at the moment & told him I disagreed with that being the source of overcrowding. Sessions need to be in larger rooms for popular topics.
    – I can’t stand the cold weather, snow storms, planes sitting on tarmacs for hours etc. Can you schedule this in warmer months?
    – Having a disability, I couldn’t handle the long lines & sitting for hours. Please record & put all the sessions online.

    Overall it was a very good conference. Great speakers, networking & I learned a lot.

  32. Thank you for this, Roberta. Even though I was @NotatRootstech, I’ve been following the many posts that were shared this year on social media, and, though it’d previously been a goal of mine to attend (I really wanted to go this year, but couldn’t swing it, financially), I’ve pretty much decided that I can’t handle it, so it’ off my “bucket list”. I have many health-related limitations, but most concerning of which would definitely make me unable to withstand the PAIN of all the walking and the standing in lines that everyone was posting about. I knew I’d be miserable if I were in that situation, and that I would NOT be able to handle it, at all. The crowds are also a factor for me, but not an insurmountable one. But, if I went to the expense of getting out there from Virginia, etc., and couldn’t get into any of the sessions I’d gone there for, I’d be LIVID.

    I do hope Rootstech will “hear” your suggestions, and take them into consideration for future attendees. I’ll never say never, but I know that I won’t make it there unless and until conditions become more favorable for all.

    Best,
    Renate

  33. I have never attended Roots Tech, but will definitely not plan to attend in its present form…
    I have been to my ethnic heritage society national conventions twice (5 days + optional Sunday memorial service, around 4000-5000 attendees, less than 1/4 under 45 years I estimate)…
    1) There is online or written return pre-registration, with discounted attendance fees. Daily walk-in registration, with no meals, is allowed, but full up sessions are posted on large signs at the registration desk, so people can see what still has room.
    2) Over half of the sessions are REPEATED ON DIFFERENT DAYS AT DIFFERENT TIMES, so people can plan out their intended schedule. There is a pre-dinner social hour, (with BYOB drinks or soft drinks), but most people use it to interact & evaluate the speakers, meet cousins, etc… Entertainment is after the dinner (90 minutes to allow for service for all those attendees), so older people can skip if extra rest is needed.
    3) Access to the heritage library staffed by volunteers is always available (8 am through 8 pm), if not attending classes, even through meal times!!
    4) Meals, catered by the hotel kitchen, are available in various forms, vegan, diabetic, etc, ONLY by pre-registration. Otherwise, attendees can bring their own or eat off-site…

    My two cents … 🙂

    • So just like the Quilt Show in Houston I described above. Obviously many other conventions have gotten the MEMO on how to put a GOOD convention on, so why not Rootstech?

  34. From reading your daily RootsTech posts I got the feeling that you had a marvelous experience. I think RootsTech is a ‘choose your own adventure’ experience and it looks like the adventure you chose was a great one. My husband and I together spent considerably less than $2000 combined to attend, traveling from St Louis MO. So, if I alone spent $2000 to attend, I probably wouldn’t think it was worth it either but the amount spent happiness ratio is all relative to overall net worth. This is something FamilySeach cannot control. I assure you that FamilySearch is not in this for the money.

    I, too, felt the registration process was taxing and have given my ideas for improvement in my after-conference survey. Any organization providing a survey is an organization that is trying to do things better. Since you didn’t stand in the line, you didn’t receive a flashdrive containing the entire course syllabus set. This was worth the wait.

    I, like you, believe in giving solutions while offering constructive criticism, but I believe in plausable solutions. Getting money back because you had some complaints isn’t going to happen so why do there?

    I am able to attend a class in every session but two but that was because of dinner obligations. One class I wanted to attend was full by the time I got there but I think the class I hurried over to was better than the one I had originally wanted. This was a win in my book. The lines looked worse than they actually were. Since I was choosing my own adventure I used line time to talk to the people around me. In doing so we found out we were standing right next to my husband’s fourth cousin. In other lines I learned about other lectures and even helped a woman with her digital file organization methods. I was never in a class line more than 20 mins and most of them significantly less than that. That was probably because I only chose two DNA lectures, about 10% of my schedule. I tried to create a balanced topic schedule.

    I do believe the Salt Palace had some mechanical issues when it came to escalators, elevators and wifi access. This isn’t on FamilySearch. A venue like the Salt Palace is constructed in accordance with federal guidelines. They aren’t going to be able to add more accomodations because there are an above average amount of scooter users.

    I didn’t attend any paid luncheons as I didn’t want a heavy lunch, nor did I attend any labs as I am usually the one teaching the labs so I can’t help you with your registration delimia but I do know that I registered as an Early Bird and those items were available for me to choose.

    I found multiple vendor demo schedules in my bag at registration. I spent a little time after the vendor area closed on Wednesday reading the schedules and picking the things I wanted to hear. Sitting in the demo theater area was a delight for sore behinds.

    I didn’t have any trouble navigating the Salt Palace. There was a map on the app that came up with a single press of the locator button while on the class and there was a paper map in the RootsTech Guide that every registrant was given. There were signs at every door listing the classes to be held in that room. Each vendor had a booth number and there were large signs labeling the vendor isle numbers as well as a vendor number in the each booth. Maybe you would like a chip in your badge that lets the app know exactly where you are so it can give you turn-by-turn instructions? But, you think badge scanning is an invasion of privacy so I guess the chip thing is out. I personally liked the badge scanning because I think it will help with future space and topic planning. And, btw, there was no scanning on Saturday, not because the organizers gave up on it, but because it was Family Discovery Day and those participants didn’t have badges to be scanned.

    I, like you, would like to register for certain sessions and be guaranteed a seat but I heard through the grapevine that in a survey more people said they didn’t want this. So, I learn to deal with it and as you say, “make lemonade from lemons”. I truly wish you had realized what a great opportunity RootsTech is and how much enjoyment and education you received from it before you posted all of these disparaging remarks. If you don’t want to be part of the the amazing entertainment, the opportunities for youth to get excited about family history, the more than abundant number of classes, the volunteer speakers (which many conferences of this scale do), the enthusiasm of the crowds, or the ability to easily visit the world’s largest genealogy library, then please, stay home and watch the free live feeds, the free webinars on FamilySearch or the many society pages, and/or pay for the insanely inexpensive Legacy Tree Webinars. Truly make lemonade and drink it in silence!

    • How about the fact the LDS Church discriminates against LGBT people? Are you ok with FamilySearch only representing male/female relationships and ignoring relationships that are legal in the United States?

      On this International Women’s Day (of all days), let me speak some truth to those of you reading this thread: the genealogists, family historians, vendors, professional genealogists, who turn a blind eye to the discrimination and misogyny of the LDS Church and Family Search really need to look yourselves in the mirror and think about the impact your tacit support of RootsTech is having on the gay youth that are shunned by the Mormons and the women who are made to believe they are less than men. It’s unacceptable in 2018.

      • This is not the place for your comments. Please find a blog post on the evils of the LDS Church and I am sure you will find many who have your same beliefs. Your posting here is purely spam and does not enhance the conversation.Here is a link to a document that reflects the beleifs of the LDS Church that you can print and hang on your wall; it should answer all your questions: https://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/content/english/pdf/36035_000_24_family.pdf

        • I am letting both of these comments remain, at least for now. The first because I do think it’s relevant to consider these points and the second because of the informational link. I do have several friends who are among the LGBTQ community who did attend the conference. I generally take my queue on things like this from people in their shoes, who I respect, who are involved, which is why I never even considered this before. I also want to make it very clear that I will decide what is and is not spam relative to my blog, and I will not condone personal attacks or condescending commentary directed towards anyone individually. Therefore, I am asking that this comment thread be terminated at this point, given the heated tone.

      • If I may, one of the speakers in a class is a software engineer, for Family Tree. He said they are working on that issue, and people will be able to list same-sex marriages, in about a year or so. I had heard that Ancestry.com sold Family Tree, this year. Maybe that’s why?

    • Legacy Tree Webinars are only $50 per year and you can watch as many archived videos as you want. Videos are free on day of showing and for a week even if you dont have membership. I wouldnt call that insanely expensive.

  35. 100% agree with you. I attended in 2015 and these were the same issues and I provided essentials the same feedback to them. Almost point by point!

    For my job, I attend 3 to 5 conferences each year and many tips and tricks could be gleaned from those events.

    The thing which bothers me the most is what I call “seat scarcity”; much like food scarcity, you become completely preoccupied with thinking about where your next seat is. In 2015, even if you arrived at a room with seemingly plenty of time, people would be there, saving seats for their friends. People would leave sessions early to rush to their next session to get a seat. You would leave a session, only to have to elbow past a herd of people rushing to get into the room you were exiting. I had attended the Innovators Summit, so by Friday evening, I’d had enough of the dysfunctional crowds and skipped the Saturday events.

    Another thing I noticed was that there weren’t enough women’s rooms and you’d stand in line for 30+ minutes for a 4-seater bathroom. So the choice was bathroom or session.

    I have resolved to not attend RootsTech again until either the venue changes or I hear that the crowd management improves. I watch what I can from the steaming, but they “rewind” from the previous year, showing repeats. I’d pay for a virtual conference, either live or later, recorded. As it is, I try to download all the handouts each year, using the app.

  36. Roberta, thank you in many many ways. I am a FamilySearch employee and worked the entire time in the Info Booth by registration, and heard most if not all that you have documented. I just emailed a link to this blog to the very top of the RT food chain. I also volunteered to be on the committee for next year. I will do all I can to make sure your voices are heard.
    Thank you for caring enough to document all of this.

  37. Thanks Roberta. I was considering attending Roots Tech 2019, but instead will save my $2000 and attend NGS. I would not have enjoyed being put through what you and others described. Does not sound like fun. I enjoyed the free live general sessions from home.

  38. Roberta,
    As a retired school teacher and an officer in some off the state education organizations that held annual conferences, I am astounded by the problems you encountered. No matter what size the conference, large or small, preregistration for sessions is a minimum requirement. Also, meal tickets are sold in advance. They can have two or thee lunch times.like many large schools do and people know before they arrive which luncheon and which sessions they are attending, and their place is reserved. Also, maybe a change of vene is in order. The main keynote speakers should be scheduled for large auditoriums, not ballrooms!

    Thanks for keeping us informed. I loved your blog about all the exciting news from the vendors. I uploaded to GEDmatch GENESIS and to MyHeritage afterward and already have my results. I plan to register for DNA Painter also. I am looking forward to your blog about it.

    Thanks for keeping us informed! I send my group members to your blog often. They benefit from it also.

  39. Earth to RootsTech planners. Have tickets for each session and make sure there is a seat for every ticket. Instead of scanning people who enter, require a ticket. Preregister each session online, no exceptions!

  40. To the young lady who was so positive about the conference and was able to attend sessions, how many elderly people did you run past to get to your sessions? Did you give your seat to any of them and stand by the wall so that they could have a seat? If not, shame on you! You have no cause to be positive, until you walk in their shoes.

  41. An exceptionally well written, thorough and thoughtful post. Soup to nuts. I tip my hat to you for taking the time to write this.

  42. My friend and I experienced the same turmoil, and I won’t go again, unless they fix some of the issues. I would like to point out a few things. Because of the long lines, I skipped lunch and went to the next session an hour and a half early. I wasn’t the only one. The head organizer, Tara, spoke to us about the problems, before the class started. The reason for the scanned badges was, people were paying for a day pass, and then showing up for all of the days, essentially attending classes they hadn’t paid for. The core group that organizes the event consists of Tara, and 4 other people. I think RootsTech is taking advantage of the speakers and Tara, and her group. Tara indicated that she and her assistants were existing on about 2-3 hours of sleep, in the weeks leading up to he conference. Also, the Convention Center is at capacity. They are using every room. She reads every comment on the surveys, so it’s important that we fill those out. She said the main problem is, they are struggling with the demand for more specialized classes, vs. demand for bigger classes, with the space they have. I think your suggestion about overflow into other nearby hotels, is excellent. I would like throw in a few of my own.

    I also believe we should be able to sign up for classes, in advance. It would force us to commit, but do all of the positives, you mentioned. Maybe, people wouldn’t be upset about scanning a code, if they knew they had a spot, sort of like a boarding pass, for a flight. Tara seemed to think the older people would not use that feature, on the App, but I disagree. She also said she had speakers cancelling at the last minute, and had to constantly update the schedule. If the speakers aren’t getting paid, I can see why. I also want to check in, online. I don’t want a badge that I’m just going to throw away. Just send me a code, I can show on my phone. Additionally, don’t want another bag, with brochures, which I view as hugely wasteful. I’ve attended 3 years in a row. The last thing I need, is another bag. I’ve left all of them, in the hotel room. My 2 cents.

  43. I would like to add one more observation. My host and I registered on the first day. We arrived just before 11:30 for the 12:00 opening. There was already a line that was 45 minutes long at that point, which of course grew as the afternoon went on. While standing in line, one of the volunteers apologized for the wait and then said, “We’ll be starting shortly, as soon as the registration volunteers have finished their training.” Yep, according to this particular volunteer, they didn’t train the registration staff until that morning! Some lady ahead of me in line snipped, “Shouldn’t they have done that before today?” The rest of us around her agreed.

    • One common problem with large conferences, even well-organized ones, is the long lines to the women’s restrooms. Bathroom breaks in between sessions or assigning some of the men’s restrooms to women would help

  44. I do agree that Roots Tech could use some work to be better, certainly it wasn’t run perfectly. However it is not at all true that it was put on in order to make money. I think it is important to remember that Roots Tech is run by FamilySearch. FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization with limited funds that is owned by the LDS church. They are primarily funded by the tithing of LDS church members and other generous donors. They do not do what they do to make money, but their goal as stated by the CEO at the conference is to make records available for the world. Most of what FamilySearch does is offered to the public for free, including the largest genealogical record collection on the planet, their website, and thousands of FamilySearch centers around the world, all for free, not to mention 200+ camera crews around the world gathering more records all the time. I have no idea what all of that costs, but I’m sure it’s a lot. They do charge for RootsTech, but there are a lot of costs involved so I’m sure they need to. If you purchased in advance, the tickets were only $129, which is not much for a 4 day conference with 300 classes available plus the syllabus. Any money they make on RootsTech would be going towards continuing to offer all that they do for free to the world. In summary, Roots Tech is a conference offered by FamilySearch, a nonprofit organization in order to fund their free offerings that they provide throughout the year.

  45. I am in agreement. I attended two years ago and was overwhelmed with the crowd this year. I felt they should have had fewer variety of classes and repeated the popular ones more often throughout the conference (Hence DNA classes) I wasn’t able to attend any dna classes.. Got to the door on one and was turned away then had to practically run to my 2nd choice which was so far away. The crowd was unmanageable and being from CALIFORNIA I thought what would happen if we had an earthquake or someone yelled fire! When we were told in one of the Family Search classes ( which was put on by the organizer of Roots Tech that there were 10,000 more people expected on Saturday I didn’t even go Saturday. She also stated there were only 5 people who work to put on this conference throughout the year. Apparently not enough and obviously not event planners. I don’t plan on attending next year.

  46. For a comparable-sized conference, RootsTECH should look to the ESRI Users Conference held every year at the San Diego Convention Center in California. This is a conference for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and related users. ESRI is the leader in the GIS software field so it can be said that the conference is one big sales promotion. However, the conference is big on continuing education for its product. They host some 18,000+ attendees from around the world. In the five years I attended I never saw any of the problems described at RootsTech. Well, except for lines at the woman’s restrooms (no public venues ever have enough woman’s restrooms, IMO). I never could attend all of the sessions I wanted but, no problem. All of the presentations were gathered on a DVD available after the conference. The UC was originally held at different locations across the country every year but, after reaching a certain size, they settled on San Diego; adequate sized facility, excellent transportation (airport, public transport, walk-ability), numerous hotels, and ESRI could more easily support it from their HQ in southern Calif. And I see that they now have a separate registration for Online Streaming of the entire conference. A lot of good ideas to put the tech in RootsTECH. http://www.esri.com/about/events/uc/agenda

    I did view the RootsTECH’s live streaming. They really weren’t very much. I was expecting it more to be like the Family History Library classes I’ve viewed. The most recent one was the Nordic Family History Conference last Sept. These were very much how-to education classes. RootsTECH would do well to emulate those classes and conferences from the Family History Library.

    Well, I will not be going to RootsTECH unless it upped its game. Its popularity will be its undoing unless it takes to heart the comments made here. Thanks, Roberta, for your posts (and for everyone’s comments). They were very enlightening.

  47. Thank you for this review. I recall learning about RootsTech — through a video I watched from it several years ago. Personally, I’m more of an introvert and not a fan of big crowds in general. The thought of being in a large confined space with a lot of other people during the height of the cold and flu season is the same reason I don’t attend sporting events.

    I prefer learning at home via webinars, reading a book, or modes of learning that I can obtain on my own time when I want to do it v/s when someone else dictates a time and place for me to be — like a conference.

    Reading through the lines, it feels like some of the genealogists who attend Rootstech do so because it is more of a social thing and they want to connect with their colleagues. I wonder if those folks have ever thought about just picking a nice location for 10 or 20 friends to get together as opposed to flying to a place where the weather isn’t great during the height of cold and flu season? They’d likely save a lot of money and rather than being able to socialize on the edges of a conference, may be able to deepen their relationships and spend more time together.

    Thank you for all the information you share about genetic genealogy and DNA. I’ve learned an incredible amount based upon what you share here. In some ways, this is for me like attending a Rootstech and I don’t have to waste a lot of money on airfare, hotel, transfers, and then going to the doctor when I get home because I picked up some airborne illness from someone else.

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