5 Tips for Choosing RootsTech Sessions

We’re getting closer and closer to RootsTech 2018. (You can even see how close with the nifty countdown on the sidebar.) I don’t know about you but I am so excited to attend this year’s conference. I mean, you saw my Tweet from the first day of RootsTech last year, right?


The RootsTech 2018 online schedule and app have been available for a while now. To download the app visit the www.RootsTech.org and look for the app store buttons at the bottom, or visit your favorite app store: Google Play Store or Apple App Store. I’ve noticed that there have been some slight changes to the session offerings since I last reviewed them on the website in the fall, so check out the list!

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One way I like to prepare for RootsTech is by pre-selecting the sessions I want to attend using the app. It allows me to review all the session offerings under Conference Schedule and “star” them to add them to My Schedule. I also appreciate that the app allows your schedule to contain conflicting events. So if you want to star several sessions in the same time slot because you haven’t decided yet, you can do that! Of course, the sessions are likely to change slightly as we near the event because speakers are human and things happen, so double check your selections before the weekend begins.

Here are 5 tips for how I go about narrowing down all the session offerings before I even get on the plane!

  1. What are your goals for 2018? The beginning of the year is when many of us set goals for the year. This time last year I had just set a goal to learn more about writing and publishing family history. As a result, I gravitated towards sessions about writing and came away from the conference with a lot of new skills to help me achieve my goal. This year one of my goals is accomplishing a preservation project, so I’ve got my eye on some sessions related to that. If you haven’t already set genealogy goals for the year, take a few minutes to think about what you want to accomplish in 2018 and use that to steer you to sessions that can help you accomplish your goals.
  2. Where the are weaknesses in your skills? Even if I don’t have a particular goal or immediate research question in mind, I’m always trying to improve my genealogy skills in general to become a better researcher. I try to select at least a couple sessions that pertain to topics outside my comfort zone, like countries and record types I am unfamiliar with. Even if they are never directly related to my research I might learn something that will help me. As someone pursuing a career in libraries, I am also interested in “big picture” topics that will offer new perspectives on the future of genealogy, technology, and diversity in the field. Is there a type of research or a piece of technology that you have never encountered in your genealogy?  This is a perfect low-risk opportunity to dip your toes into new waters and expand your horizons.
  3. Which speakers do you like? This is one of my favorite ways to choose sessions. I don’t live in close proximity to a lot of genealogy events, but I love watching webinars, listening to podcasts, and following some of my “genealogy idols” on social media. This is an opportunity for me to hear them speak in person! I have a list of about 10 speakers I particularly enjoy and I make sure I visit their individual Speaker pages on the app, which conveniently list all the sessions they are presenting at RootsTech. If something on their list sounds remotely interesting, you can bet I’ll be there!
  4. Select your top 2-3 choices. While pre-selecting sessions can save time and stress, it can also cause headaches if you have your heart set on a session that gets cancelled or has a packed house when you arrive. Instead of wasting time looking at the list to find another session, you should already have a backup plan! The My Schedule feature in the app allows you to star multiple sessions for a single time slot. Be prepared by selecting at least one or two backup sessions for each time slot, just in case.
  5. Leave time for the exhibit hall! Don’t see anything that interests you for a particular time slot? That’s okay. No matter what kind of conference I go to, there is always at least one time slot where none of the sessions interest me. The exhibit hall is usually packed in the hour between the morning keynote and the first breakout sessions. I don’t know about you, but that stresses me out! For a more leisurely stroll through the booths, save at least one time slot for a visit to the exhibit hall. You won’t regret missing one presentation to avoid the crowds while you check out new products, pick up some freebies, do some shopping, and chat with knowledgeable vendors.

Do you have your eye on any sessions yet? Let’s compare notes in the comments!

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