February 5, 2014

You Too Can Be a Virtual RootsTech Attendee

One of the biggest genealogy events of the year, RootsTech 2014, is about to start. Hundreds—possibly thousands—are gathering in Salt Lake City right now, gearing up to hear presentations, tour the exhibit hall, watch demonstrations, and grab a little research time at the Family History Library.

And I’m at home, 1522 miles away.

Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for myself, though, I’ve decided to become a Virtual RootsTech Attendee. Would you like to join me? It’s fun, it’s easy, it’s free, and at the end of the day, you get to sleep in your own bed. Doesn’t sound so bad now, does it?

Here’s what we Virtual RootsTech Attendees will be doing from Thursday, February 6, through Saturday, February 8:

A big part of any conference experience is the connections you make with other people there. Connections are what make the conference lively and fun, and they also fill you in on things you missed. You might think this would be hard to do from home, but it’s actually pretty easy, thanks to:
  • Carolyn Pointer’s awesome RebelMouse RootsTech page, which delivers the excitement in real time, including pictures. (For the inside scoop on what’s new in genealogy each day, follow Carolyn’s blog, 4 Your Family Story.)
  • Genealogy bloggers attending RootsTech, who are posting updates, summaries, and news. I’m watching Randy Seaver at GeneaMusings, Amy Coffin at We Tree Genealogy, DearMyrtle, and several others.
  • Twitter, where everyone is using the hashtag #RootsTech. I use TweetDeck to organize my Twitter feeds, and set up a column for the conference (click on the searchlight, enter #RootsTech, and click “add column”). By reading and retweeting other people’s tweets, and posting some of your own, you can actively engage with people at RootsTech, as well as others watching from home.

Now we’re getting to the heart of the matter. RootsTech is offering 15 live-streamed sessions that anyone can watch, free, from any device connected to the Internet. I’ve included the list of streamed sessions at the end of this post, or see it here. Remember to convert the times listed from Mountain Time to your own time zone. Here’s some tips for getting the most from these sessions:
  • Bookmark the website, www.rootstech.org, for fast access. The videos will appear on the home screen as they’re broadcast—you don’t have to sign up or select anything.
  • Set up a viewing and note-taking system that works from you. For simplicity, you can’t beat watching the sessions on your computer or tablet and taking notes on paper. If you have two screens to work with (an extra monitor, or a tablet in addition to a computer), you can use one to watch and the other to take notes in a Word doc, Google doc, or Evernote note.
  • Download the handouts for the sessions you’re watching. I like to add the handout for the presentation to the notes I take on Evernote.
  • Preview the entire RootsTech schedule, so you’ll know what people are talking about when they reference other sessions that aren’t being streamed.

To help with the whole virtual thing, here's some views of Salt Lake City:

And here's some last-minute tips:
  • Tune in at 8:30 am MT each day to hear the keynote speakers. RootsTech doesn’t include these in the list of streamed sessions, but they will be broadcast live.
  • Between sessions, get up and move around. People at RootsTech will be navigating stairs and hallways, changing rooms, grabbing a snack, etc. I plan to change rooms from time to time, too, to keep from getting tired.
  • Have some healthy snacks ready. I’ve got apples, yogurt, and microwave popcorn just waiting to be popped (good thing, because I happen to be snowed in today).
  • Don’t sweat it if you have to miss a session you want to see. Last year, they posted all the videos afterwards, and I expect they’ll do the same this year. Within a few days, if not immediately, you’ll be able to go back and watch them.
  • Keep a lookout for special promotions and offers announced from vendors at RootsTech. These are usually available from home, too, for a short period of time.

The live-streamed RootsTech sessions and times (Mountain Time) are:

Thursday, February 6, 2014
10:30-11:30 am: Top 10 Things I Learned About My Family From My Couch (Tammy Hepps)
1:00-2:00 pm: FamilySearch Family Tree: What’s New and What’s Next (Ron Tanner)
2:30-3:30 pm: Intro to DNA for Genealogists (James Rader)
4:00-5:00 pm: Genealogy in the Cloud (Randy Hoffman)
5:00-6:00 pm: Sharing Your Family with Multimedia (Michael LeClerc)

Friday, February 7, 2014
10:30-11:30 am: Storytelling Super Powers (David Adelman)
1:00-2:00 pm: Tweets, Links, Pins, and Posts: Break Down Genealogical Brick Walls with Social Media (Lisa Alzo)
2:30-3:30 pm: Getting the Most out of Ancestry.com (Crista Cowen)
4:00-5:00 pm: Finding Family and Ancestors Outside the USA with New Technologies (Daniel Horowitz)
5:00-6:00 pm: Do It Yourself Photo Restoration (Ancestry Insider)

Saturday, February 8, 2014
10:30-11:30 am: Become an iPad Power User (Lisa Louise Cooke)
1:00-2:00 pm: Information Overload: Managing Online Searches and Their Results (Josh Taylor)
2:30-3:30 pm: A Beginner’s Guide to Going Paperless (Randy Whited)
4:00-5:00 pm: How to Interview Yourself for a Personal History (Tom Taylor)
5:00-6:00 pm: Five Ways to Do Genealogy in Your Sleep (Deborah Gamble)

Sounds too good to miss, doesn’t it? I'm excited! So what do you say? Are you ready to be a Virtual RootsTech Attendee?


  1. Great information Shelley! I'm so glad to hear that the keynote speakers will be broadcast live as well. It was disappointing when I didn't see them listed in the schedule.

    1. I know, I was glad to find out they'd be broadcast, too. Happy to be able to help get the word out!

  2. Thanks for letting us know that the keynotes are going to be broadcast. Psyched! I was disappointed when I didn't see them on the list. I'll be online in the morning to see them.

    1. I'm not sure why they didn't put the keynotes on the list, but was happy to see they started streaming on time this morning. The quality of the live feed has been great so far, hasn't it?

  3. I'll be there virtually too! Have my extra monitor set up! Great tips and ideas for making virtual attendance successful.

    1. Thanks, Jennifer, glad you found them helpful. This is when an extra monitor really comes in handy!

  4. I'll be watching and commenting on Twitter. Last year it was great to be able to follow what others had to say whilst adding my own opinions.

    1. I agree, it's great following along on Twitter, Hilary. I noticed today they even had the live Twitter feed running on the RootsTech home page. Thanks for reading!

  5. Great tips Shelley - thanks for posting them. And I'm glad that the sessions will be posted for later catch-up, as I'll be joining the conference from the UK and would have to stay up until about 1am to watch them all!

    1. Oh wow, Deb, those would be some late nights! At least you won't need to lose sleep to watch the videos. Thanks for reading and letting me know you found the tips helpful.

  6. Thanks so much for your great info and tips! Wish I'd known about this blog sooner. Many thanks to Steve Anderson!

    1. I'm glad you stopped by, Karen, and really appreciate the kind words. And my thanks to Steve for sharing!


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