SALT LAKE CITY — This year's online RootsTech Connect conference kicks off Thursday and will be the largest in its 10-year history as more than 380,000 people are expected to virtually join the event.
RootsTech is run by FamilySearch, a volunteer-based organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Slated to start this week, the event will feature a number of speakers including Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and motivational speaker Nick Vujcic. Utah Valley University President Astrid Tuminez will also speak at the event as a keynote presenter.
Typically, thousands of participants would attend the conference in person in Salt Lake City. But as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, an event of that size wasn't feasible. Last year's event hosted about 25,000 in-person attendees.
"It really was one of the last mass gathering events at least here in Salt Lake City," Jen Allen, director of RootsTech, said Monday at a news conference.
Sessions will also be made available in multiple languages as well. While attendees won't be able to run into people in person, they will be able to communicate with fellow participants through a chat function where people can also connect with speakers and exhibitors.
Because the conference is available across the globe, the time zones of each area are now factored in. The event will start livestreaming at different times across the world. In Australia, it begins at 3 p.m. their time, and livestreams start on Wednesday evening for Utah.
"Depending on the time of day, wherever you are in the world, you're able to enjoy this event," she said. "The global nature of it is really what landed us to many of these decisions."
The pandemic restrictions have allowed RootsTech leaders to further several goals of making the conference more accessible and taking it worldwide.
People have registered for the free event from more than 220 countries and territories, something Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch International, thought would take years to see that kind of growth before the pandemic.
"We've always had this aspiration to how we could globalize it," he said. "But because of the pandemic, we did look for a silver lining and we saw this opportunity really to increase and augment three aspirations we've had and without the pandemic, I think us achieving those aspirations would have taken us years and years and years. With the pandemic, we saw the crack in the window and so we jumped through it."
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