There are many around the web offering advice for what to do to prepare for RootsTech, the world’s largest genealogy conference happening every February in Salt Lake City, and many helping you figure out the ins and outs during the conference. I’m here to tell you what to do after the conference is over, after you’ve come home and collapsed.
My guide assumes you’ve experienced RootsTech to the full, attending all the keynotes, a dozen or more workshops and classes, special event lunches, after-hours special events, and wandered dozens of times around the exhibition hall getting your scavenger hunt stamps collected and exploring all the new gizmos, gadgets, books, classes, and technology there is in the family history industry. PLUS you’ve spent at least a few hours if not a day or two in the Family History Library, the parent of all the Family History Centers around the globe offering genealogy information and guidance through the Church of the Latter Day Saints.
In other words, your brain must be exploding and your feet are the size of two blimps. You’ve laughed too much, cried a few times in public, have an overstuffed suitcase or two to unpack, and are fighting the desire to sleep for a week to recover. That’s when you’re ready for this guide, and you know you had a great time at RootsTech.
Stop everything right now and go get a list to take notes. You’re going to need them.
Now, it’s time to seriously unpack and sort.
Empty the Suitcase and Sort
The first thing you need to do after the swelling has subsided in your feet, and your head isn’t beating a brass band, is unpack.
Throw the dirty clothes in the laundry. They can wait.
Sort all the rest into piles. I recommend using your bed as a sorting table. This encourages you to finish the job so you can climb in. Nothing like a little motivation.
Make a pile for all the wonderful books, DVDs, CDs, or whatever other readable, listenable, and watchable material you purchased or gathered from the exhibition hall goodies.
Make a pile of all the pamphlets you collected as well, all the advertising, marketing, and promotional material from the various booths, displays, exhibits, and societies.
Make another pile for the gadgets and gizmos you collected along the way. I love all the product tech available at RootsTech, from lighted magnifiers to sticky notes for research documents.
Make a pile of business cards and scraps of paper you collected from people with contact information on it. Honestly, you should attend a conference like this with an easily-made business card with your contact information, mostly your name, phone, email, website, Twitter, and Facebook accounts, along with your key ancestral names, places, and dates, or your research specialty such as Norway, Ireland, or Australia. Print it out on your printer on some inexpensive business card stock from the office supply store, or onto some other card stock that you can cut with a paper cutter or scissors to the size of business cards. Don’t overthink this, just make sure you do it for your next genealogy conference or workshop. Others are doing it and you need to make a pile for their cards.
Make another pile for your notes and the printed worksheets and materials you collected from the classes and workshops you attended during the busy days.
What else did you pick up that you can sort into separate piles? Gifts for friends and family from Salt Lake City? A little bottle of salty lake water on a key chain? Chocolates? T-shirts? Goodies from the Church History Museum Store and Gift Shop across from the Family History Center? Whatever else you brought home, group it into separate piles.
With the gift pile, find some plastic grocery bags or gift bags and quickly sort those into bags for the recipients, clearly labeled. That’s quick and easy. Do it now, or you will forget who you had in mind when you picked up that little do-hickey.
Let’s look at the rest of the piles individually.
Take the business cards and scraps of contact information paper and flip them over. On the back of each card, write in pen “RootsTech 2018,” or whatever the year of your attendance. This will remind you of where and when you met the person.
If you are a professional or techy, use your phone or scanner to scan the cards into your contact information app. Doing it now (or on the plane on the way home) gets it done and out of the way. Trust me. I waited for years and now have a huge box filled with business cards and no memory of meeting 90% of these people, nor desire to spend my life adding their information now to my contact database. Do it now before it piles up on you.
Flip them face up and go through them one at a time and make a note that will remind you three years from now who this person was and why you have their card. If you scan the business cards, make a note (and add the RootsTech2018 tag to each) as you scan them. Do it now while you remember why they were important to you in the moment.
When done, either wrap a rubber band around the cards or slip them in a small zip storage bag with notes that say “RootsTech 2018” on it and store it where you keep the rest of your collection of business cards, or pull out the ones that you definitely wish to respond to, and keep those on your desk and throw the rest away.
Write on your task list to contact the people you’ve pulled out of the list by the end of the week. Contact them sooner rather than later so they remember who you are and how you two met.
While you are at it, if you used the Find Relatives at RootsTech feature on the FamilySearch app and connected with relatives, follow up with them. They might be your new source for family information. Hopefully, you took screenshots during the event of the app’s results as those go away when the people are more than 100 to 500 feet away from you. It’s GPS-centric. I forget each year, so I added a note to my conference notes to remind me for next year.
Books, CDs, DVDs, Etc.
Pull out your smart phone and ensure that you have some form of inventory app installed. It might be Goodreads, My Library, Personal Library, Magic Home Inventory, Book Crawler, My Library, Full Version Home Inventory Organizer, Encircle: Home Inventory, or any of the other personal home or personal book library catalogers. Flip over each book and look for the ISBN number and barcode on the back. If there is a label over it, do your best to remove it with a hot dryer or use Un-Du Sticker, Tape, and Label Remover so you can get to the barcode. You don’t need much, just a tiny strip of the width. With your app, scan the barcode to add the book to your inventory.
I’ve added 50 books, manually when the ISBN number isn’t found, and by scanning them in less than 25 minutes. I keep all my books on my phone so next time I’m at a conference or workshop, I can check to ensure I’m not buying a book I already own, something I used to do way too often.
Do the same thing with CDs, DVDs, and other reading material. If you purchased magazines, add them manually to your inventory app so you don’t repeat purchase those in the future, and you know what you have or don’t.
When done, put the books into your library where they belong, or by your favorite reading spot so you can get busy when you are done with everything else you’ve brought home from RootsTech.
Brochures, Pamphlets, and Flyers
Next, sort through those brochures, pamphlets, flyers, and all the scraps of paper you brought home filled with products, services, classes, society memberships, and other flotsam and jetsam.
Sort them into piles as to their categorization, class material together, memberships together, products, services, etc.
Take a moment, pen in hand, to go through each and make a decision on whether or not you will use any of these. While they are all good to know they exist, which will you truly use. Toss the ones that you don’t need and consider what’s left.
If any of these require action on your part, to register for an event, subscribe to a service, join a membership, make a note on your task list to act upon these and add them to the pile with the business cards for immediate action.
If you wish to file away any for future reference, do so immediately so they don’t pile up.
Review Future Strategies
Each time I attend RootsTech, I learn new strategies for getting around. This is even more important as the conference continues to grow, attracting thousands more every year.
I make a note in my conference file on my computer to remind me of these tips and tricks for the trip to Salt Lake City. I do this for every conference. Examples include:
- Bring self-made business cards listing my contact information (phone, email, website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and summary of my family branch names. Also include a list of the people you identify as your brick walls. You never know who you will meet that might help you with your research, and this may trigger a memory or research after the event. If there is a bulletin board for those seeking their relatives, tack the card on the board.
- Map of the Salt Palace Conference Center with notes as to the fact that room 155 is not in order with the rest of the rooms. You must go upstairs, walk a long hallway, then downstairs (or escalators) to the rooms in the furthest reaches of the convention hall. You think there is another way and there isn’t, so stop trying.
- Note the “best” bathrooms. They are located on the second and third floors near rooms 255. The bathrooms at the back of the exhibition hall also rarely have much of a line.
- Remember the ballrooms have access along the main hall and in the middle down a narrow hall. The letter order doesn’t make much sense until you get the hang of it.
- Each year I experiment with what and how I carry my laptop and other odds and ends through the days of the conference. I make notes on what worked and what didn’t to remind me to make improvements next year. I’ve almost got it down to a science, but I change things as I travel throughout the year, so this helps me remember. I recommend a small backpack or small to medium tote bag for carrying your stuff around. While there is a coat check, it is often a long line to access, so you are likely to carry your coat with you throughout the day. Registrants receive a small branded tote, which makes an ideal thing to carry around. You will pick up goodies in the exhibition hall. Some vendors offer branded totes, so use, too.
- A list of my memberships, societies, and associations. They often offer sales and discounts for new members and renewals. I’ve been able to save several hundred dollars on various memberships and subscriptions by renewing at RootsTech. The list helps me remember which groups I belong to and which I should consider joining if the price is right.
- A list of vendors to visit. There are so many, and it can take a couple days to get through the entire exhibition hall with the little time you have to explore. I make a list on my phone to ensure I visit those I need to see first.
- Bring food for lunch and snacks. There are grocery stores, a Subway, and a pharmacy within a block of the center to grab some sandwiches and snacks. If you choose to eat there, the food is found at the back of the exhibition hall along the entire length of the L shape. Fresher food is found at the very back near the stage.
- For dinner, Olive Garden is diagonal across the street past the open park area. Also try the hotel restaurants, Market Street Grill (on Market Street – two block walkish), Benijana’s, or walk one block away from the center on Main and explore the fun restaurants, pubs, and cafes on the street or in the City Creek Center. Note that many close early, about 8 or 9pm on weeknights. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I recommend you call for a reservation unless you wish to sit in the bar and you’re a party of two or less.
- Weather reminder and notes. As I sit here finalizing this, a freak snowstorm is dropping over a foot of snow on Salt Lake City. I dressed for being inside the convention center and Family History Library, not trudging through snow on my way to and from these places. I make notes on the weather each year to remind me to dress appropriately.
- Other things I remind myself to do are:
- Make screenshots of the FamilySearch Find Relatives at RootsTech feature on the FamilySearch app of the people at RootsTech on my family tree. It is GPS-centric and has a limited range. After the conference, they leave, and the list is no longer there to remind you of the connections.
- Shoe and feet inspection. I make a note about the shoes I wore and how my feet felt walking a thousand miles over 5 days in the convention center. This year was the best with my Keen sandals. I’m going to wear them next year, too.
- Take pictures of the name tags of the people I photograph. Sometimes their name tag is visible, but often it is turned over or hidden, and I can’t remember their names.
- Bring small safety pins to pin the name tag ribbons after day three when they start to lose their stick and fall apart from all the hugging, tugging, and wear across my chest and stomach.
Workshop and Class Handouts and Material
There are so many workshops and classes at RootsTech, by the end of the week, the information sloshes around in your skull like mush.
I recommend you sort through the stack of printed teaching material to group them into related topics. Put all the DNA material together, the ethnic research (by country, region, or language), the citation and research material, whatever the categorization of the workshops you attended. Paper clip or rubber band them together and put them in a pile on your desk or next to your reading spot.
Many workshop notes and materials are found online. Using the RootsTech app (Android/iPhone), or the links found in the workshop notes, when your head has settled a little bit more, get online and download those documents and files. While most educators leave their notes online for a good length of time, some don’t stay in the same place or accessible after a few months. You don’t have to look at them, just download them before you forget. Look later.
Note: If you were one of the 4,000 early registrations, in 2018 you would have received a USB thumb drive with most of the class handouts and syllabi. Unfortunately, there were duplication errors with many of them. Replacements were handed out during the conference for those that noted the errors. Even the replacements had errors. Go through your thumb drive carefully and note which files aren’t working, and download replacements through the RootsTech app and email them to yourself or share them via OneNote or Evernote.
In a couple days, when the headaches are truly gone, feet feel normal, and your mind is clearer, but not longer than a week, go through each of these stacks, print and digital. Review your notes. Maybe print the digital versions for easier reading and storage in a notebook. Add more detail to your notes to ensure you understood the material. Make some sense out of them. Don’t forget about those downloaded versions.
I often will write a summary of what I learned and why it was important for me to learn this material, along with notes recommending myself to use these, and what to use them on. Something that will remind me of this session’s importance five years from now.
Explore the class handouts for the other classes you didn’t take. Watch the free videos on the RootsTech site.
When you are done exploring your notes, walk over to your scanner (a required tool for every genealogist), and scan them to your computer. Name the files immediately, highlighting the educational topic, and store them in an Education folder on your computer or wherever you store educational data files. Make sure the file name includes RootsTech 2018 to ensure you remember where you picked up the material.
Then toss or file as is your custom.
Gadgets and Gizmos
I saved the gadgets and gizmos for the last. Why? Because they are a distraction.
Oh, they are the right kind of distraction, but as you have many things on your list to do before you can clear off the bed and climb in for some more much needed sleep, you must resist the temptation to play. I know that new Flip-Pal Scanner is calling to you, but resist.
I recommend you put them all in a bag and put them in your desk or work space area and leave them to be laid away the next day. At that time, you can play all you wish because the bed will be empty.
Clear Your Bed and Have a Cuppa
Put away whatever else you need to sort and store, but before you reach for that cuppa whatever relaxes you, there is one more thing to do.
Yes, you need to clear the bed, but you should do something else.
Put your suitcase back into travel mode.
That’s right. I want you to change your mindset about travel when it comes to family history. I want you to travel more and make your life easier as you do so.
- Start the laundry with your travel clothes only (not what the other family members left for you to do when you got home). When they are dry, fold them up and put them back in the suitcase. Only the items that were comfortable to wear and ones you wore, not the ones you wish you had worn.
- While the laundry is going, wipe out the empty suitcase. Dump everything out and with some water and white distilled vinegar, give it a gentle wipe down. Most of us come home with dirty laundry rather than waste time during those last few days. We’ve shoved our shoes in the suitcase, shampoo, wet towels, who knows what. Give it a quick wipe to ensure it stays smelling clean for the next trip. While wiping it down, inspect for damage and replace parts and pieces or fix them, or consider it junk and start planning for a replacement.
- Restock your makeup and bathroom kit and put it back in the case.
- Restock your personal business cards and tuck them into a pocket of the case.
- Find all the other little do-dads that you can’t travel without. Clean them off, and put them back in the case.
- Add the clean clothes once dry, packed as you like to travel, rolled up or stuffed into compression or packing cubes.
- Once closed, check the luggage tags to ensure they survived the flight, and tuck the suitcase away ready for the next trip.
Now it’s time for that cuppa.
Sit back, relax a bit, reminisce about the great time you had in spite of your aching feet and back and pounding head. Get ready to tackle your task list tomorrow, taking things one step at a time.
And don’t worry. By the time RootsTech arrives next year, you will have forgotten about the pain and be eagerly awaiting the next round of family history madness.