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How this genealogy conference went global

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Attendees walk through RootsTech in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 3, 2018. The 2021 event will be virtual-only. 

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

This article was first published in the ChurchBeat newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox weekly.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how creative, on-short-notice solutions to the pandemic executed by staffers at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints led to a record-setting global audience for general conference.

It’s happening again with another conference sponsored by the church in downtown Salt Lake City.

First, it’s important to note the excitement generated annually by RootsTech Connect. It isn’t just for genealogy geeks. Every year, the headlining speakers seem to make bigger headlines. And the audience swells.

Consider:

  • For the first RootsTech in 2011, there were 3,000 attendees.
  • Last year, at the end of its first decade, the conference drew 30,000 people to the Salt Palace. Another 100,000 paid to watch online.

It’s redundant to note that the pandemic precludes in-person participation next week. Instead of dampening enthusiasm, the audience may triple in size.

RootsTech Connect organizers threw open the virtual doors for an online-only conference this year. They’ve gone truly global. As my colleague Trent Toone shows in his new story, the conference is free and the speakers are truly international.

More than 315,000 people have signed up already, and that number will continue to expand until RootsTech begins on Feb. 25.

The engagement is so massive that even before this year’s conference begins, organizers say it has changed RootsTech forever.

“The virtual event will never go away,” said Jen Allen, a director of events at FamilySearch, “Now the question is, do we do something in person on top of it? What do we do next year or even years later, whether it’s in Salt Lake or London? Maybe we look at other locations? ... There is no way we can take this away from the world now that we’ve learned all that we need to learn. And we’ll be able to do it so much better next year, knowing what we’ve learned. Definitely, the global approach of it will never go away.”

Read Trent Toone’s story to get the full story on this year’s conference, the unique way content will be archived and available and how you can sign up if you’d like.

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