So, what were my top impressions and takeaways from RootsTech 2019 (aka a whirlwind of education, inspiration, and fun) you ask?
Full disclosure: As an Ambassador for RootsTech, I received certain benefits, such as a free pass to the conference, a pass to give away to one of my followers, and access to some VIPs and industry leaders during the conference. However, my opinions are my own.
Focus on the Attendee
I’m not going to lie. When Jen Allen announced this change of focus at the media dinner, I was a little skeptical. I was wrong. Throughout the conference, you saw that RootsTech 2019 was indeed paying close attention to attendees’ experience.
For instance, no lines.
The planners bent over backwards to make sure people were spending their time learning and connecting instead of standing in a queue. Seriously, the only time I stood in line was in the ladies.
This year, badges were mailed out and bags, badge holders, and lanyards were free for the taking throughout the Salt Palace. Volunteers with blue shirts emblazoned with “ASK ME” were everywhere.
Class rooms were larger—some of them downright cavernous. No badges were scanned. In addition, there were more than plenty lunches available for everyone on Wednesday. Yes, free lunches when the Expo Hall was closed.
Additionally, the RootsTech team was responsive. For example, on day one (Wednesday), live-streaming ended as the Q & A began. When online viewers objected, RootsTech staff made a quick change, extending the live-streaming to include that portion of the sessions.
Key Takeaways included the Belief that Family History Can Heal
The “Connect. Belong.” had a “heal” postscript. A recognition that we have conflicts in our history and family history was one of my top takeaways from RootsTech 2019. It resonated strongly with me, as did the belief that healing can come through an accurate understanding of history.
The healing started with the LDS church’s two-million-dollar donation to the International African American Museum’s Center for Family History. (The IAA Museum and that beautiful gift deserve an entire post, so stay tuned.)
Of course, we were all gobsmacked to see Martin Luther King III come on stage and speak about how that donation represented a fulfillment of his father’s dream.
Regina Mason, incredible as always, picked up that thread as she premiered Gina’s Journey. Her film about her journey “to reclaim the life of her ancestor” demonstrated that hard, difficult stories can be faced and shared.
In addition, Saroo Brierly spoke not only of looking for his birth family. He also shared touching photographs of his birth mother and adoptive mother bonding over their love for a son.
Undercurrent of Culture
Music, dance, and heritage ran through the general sessions. The exhibit hall also held a plethora of organizations affiliated with embracing and celebrating culture.
Ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro awed us with his talent and introduced us to Japanese-American culture. The he went into an amazing rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Talk about widening your world-view!
RootsTech Looser than your Average Genealogy Conference
As always, RootsTech was a place to have fun as you learn. Emcee Jason Hewlett made sure that happened, entertaining folks with his impressions, selfie challenges, and facial contortions. And we attendees did our part as well. And all that fun strengthened the connections we made.
The conference is still all about connecting. (See How to Get the Most out of RootsTech.) We heard stories of people finding common ancestors ( one of the earliest Africans transported to the New World from Angola, for instance) , meeting friends of friends, and coming to a new understanding of the past.
Technology was the harmony line to the “connect. belong.” melody. It was woven through announcements, exhibits, and all sessions were to spotlight some type of technology. Whether you liked that change or missed the Innovator Summit of previous years, probably depends on the size of your inner geek.
I’m just going to let all the above photos tell that part of the story.
Expo Hall a Little Different
Though similar to previous years, the expo hall seems to flow better. The media center was moved to the back of the hall, which eliminated some log jams.
There was no innovator alley either, which I personally missed.
No Need to Use the Hotel Gym
With RootsTech taking over the entire Salt Lake Palace, attendees got plenty of exercise going from session to session. Fitbit wearers were easily hitting 12,000 steps or more each day without leaving the convention center.
What were your takeaways from RootsTech 2019? Please comment below.