RootsTech Survival Guide: The Innovator’s Summit

Wednesday at RootsTech 2016, before the actual conference begins, is the The Innovator Summit.

Although more for the ‘man behind the curtain’, the Innovator Summit at RootsTech is a one-day event of presentations geared toward vendors, developers, entrepreneurs, and innovators to learn about and share ideas on the creating the software and products that drive our online and offline genealogy research.

A Day Full of Innovation & Entrepreneurs

The Innovator Summit is not included in the regular 3-day RootsTech Pass, but can be purchased in addition to a 3-day pass, or by itself.  The Innovator Summit starts with a morning keynote session, a full list of classes taught by family history business professionals, a boxed lunch, admission to the semi-final round of the 2016 RootsTech Innovator Showdown, and concludes with an opportunity to meet and greet with other Innovator Summit attendees and participants at an evening networking event.

This year’s Innovator Summit keynote speaker will be Kenneth Krogue, who is the cofounder of, a contributor for Forbes online, and a popular speaker at industry events. The Keynote Session begins at 9:00 a.m.

The presenters and classes cover just about every possible topic under the heading of ‘genealogy innovation and entrepreneurship’. Speakers include Bennett Greenspan, Jeff Haddon, Tammy Hepps, Harrison Tang, among many others, as well as a panel discussion on DIY Small Business Guerrilla Marketing Strategies led by Lisa Louise Cook, Allison Dolan, and Jenna Mills.   Class titles include  Family History Technology Workshop Highlights, Design a Standards-Based API for Genealogical Data, DNA – How is it Redefining Our Industry, and many other classes of interest to developers and entrepreneurs. You can find the complete list of Innovator Summit classes here: Innovator Summit Class List

The Innovator Showdown

A big part of the Innovator Summit is the Innovator Showdown, where developers compete for cash prizes for their projects involving emerging businesses and technologies in the genealogy world. A panel of judges has narrowed down the submissions to twelve semifinalists, whose submissions will be displayed at RootsTech in the Expo Hall’s “Innovator Alley”.  You can find the list of these Semifinalists, along with a link to their video submission here.

During lunch on Wednesday those twelve semifinalists will each give a brief presentation. The judges will then determine the 6 finalists, and those finalists will be announced at the Media Dinner that evening.

On Friday at 10:30 am in Hall D, the six finalists will present their projects before the panel of judges as well as an audience of RootsTech attendees, who will vote for the people’s choice winner.  The judges will select and announce the top 3 winners, who will share in over $100,000 in cash and in-kind prizes. If you purchase a pass to Wednesday’s Innovator Summit, you are also able to attend the Friday Showdown.

You may register for the Innovator Summit here, but even if you opt not to attend the Innovator Summit day on Wednesday, all RootsTech attendees are welcome to  attend and vote at the Showdown for their favorite new technology, product or service on Friday.


The finalists will present before a panel of judges and a live audience on Friday at 10:30 am (photo from

RootsTech Survival Guide – 12 Quick Tips

With RootsTech just 3 weeks away, here are 12 quick tips to help you “survive”!


  1. Bring your chargers!  You don’t want to run out of juice while taking notes in the middle of the class you couldn’t wait to attend.  If you have a portable charger, bring it too! Then you don’t have to worry about finding an outlet.  (I put this as #1 because I learned this the hard way ~ Eowyn)
  2. Look over the classes offered and the schedule and pick which ones you’d most like to attend.  Choose ones that will broaden your knowledge or ones that tickle your fancy.  Be sure to have a plan B in case the class you want to attend is full.
  3. Review the classes you’ve decided to attend and write down any questions you might have.  Whether you’re seasoned at genealogy or an eager newbie this will help you enhance and improve your experience and your skills.
  4. You’ve heard of 72 hour emergency kits – why not have a conference kit? Get all your conference necessities gathered in one place, like paper, pens, highlighters, laptop, camera, etc. Get it all together and then you won’t have to worry about what you might forget (like your charger).
  5. Have a lunch plan. The Salt Palace offers a lot of great dining options but the lines can get long.  Check out surrounding restaurants and fast food joints as they might be better options if you don’t want to be late to the afternoon classes. City Creek Center mall is within walking distance and has plenty of eateries.



  1. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes.  The convention center is huge and you can expect to spend quite a bit of time on your feet, especially if you visit the Expo Hall. A friend suggested Dr. Scholl’s gel inserts. We’ve tried it and they help a LOT!
  2. Arrive early for sessions.  Many classes are eagerly anticipate and can fill up quickly  Remember, once it’s full, it’s full, and you’ll have to go to your plan B for that hour.
  3. Network! Collect “business” cards.  This is a great time to make connections and you never know when you might need that contact down the road. You can keep notes on the back of the cards so you remember what you chatted with them about.
  4. Visit with vendors.  The Expo Hall is full of opportunities for you to learn about great products and services.  Rather than just cruising by and snatching up a pamphlet, stop and talk to the folks at the table. You never know what you might learn or what a valuable contact you might make. Plus, you will make the vendors very happy 🙂  As mentioned, the Expo Hall is huge – HUGE. It’s easy to get sucked into it and not want to leave, but be sure to pay attention to the time so you don’t miss that class you really want to attend.
  5. Document, document, document.  Come prepared to take notes and photos. RootsTech can be an amazing experience and as family historian you’ll surely want to preserve your memories and experiences.


  1. If you have the opportunity at some point, we strongly suggest you visit the Family History Library, it’s the mother of all family history libraries. Check out 6 great tips from Julie Carhill Tarr on how to prepare to make the most of that experience.
  2. There are usually a variety of social events that happen around RootsTech time.  Attend some!  It’s a great way to network and to make new genealogy friends.