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RootsTech 2022’s New and Improved Features Promise to Bring More Energy to the Screen

Melanie Gibby and her daughter, Anna Gibby, use Compare-a-Face to see what famous people and ancestors Anna looks like at the FamilySearch booth during RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on February 29, 2020. Photo by Kristin Murphy, courtesy of Church News. Copyright 2022 Deseret News Publishing Company.

This story appears here courtesy of
TheChurchNews.com. It is not for use by other media.

By Sydney Walker,
Church News

The feeling as thousands cheer for a keynote speaker on the RootsTech main stage. The emotion on people’s faces as an inspirational story is shared. The excitement in a research session as a discovery is made. The joy in the expo hall surrounding the latest innovations.

Energy — something that isn’t easy to replicate on an online platform.

“The way I would describe what we’ve learned is energy,” said Jen Allen, director of events at FamilySearch, of the first all-virtual RootsTech last year.

“We knew going in that it would be challenging to get energy into a virtual audience. What we’ve done this year is really tried to think about how to bring a higher level of production that then brings better energy in the virtual world.”

RootsTech attendees fill the expo hall in the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on February 29, 2020. Photo courtesy of RootsTech, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

Traditionally held in the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, RootsTech was forced to go virtual in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was an unprecedented experiment that attracted one million visitors from 240 countries and territories.

Building on last year’s success and learnings, RootsTech 2022 is going completely virtual again. The three-day global family history celebration will be March 3–5, and registration is free. Main sessions will be streamed in 11 languages, with other sessions available in 40 languages. This year’s theme is “Choose Connection.”

Similar to the 2021 virtual event, RootsTech 2022 will feature international keynote speakers and hundreds of on-demand, livestream and interactive sessions where participants can connect with each other, ask questions and learn from experts.

Elder Kevin S. Hamilton, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Family History Department, and Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch, recently spoke to the Church News about some new and improved features that promise to bring more energy to the screen during RootsTech’s second all-virtual event.

‘Choose Connection’

“Connection is this powerful thing,” Elder Hamilton said of RootsTech 2022’s theme. “We have people all around the world that are trying to connect. They’re trying to figure out how they fit in, how they belong, how they connect to their family, how they connect to society. And family history is one of the ways people can actually understand their connection.”

To promote this year’s theme, RootsTech will be launching a social media campaign for #ChooseConnection. The campaign will feature an original song titled “Choose Connection” and an accompanying music video.

Rockwood emphasized the meaning of the two words in the phrase “Choose Connection.”

“I love ‘choose’ because it really does honor moral agency. And we know the power of connection,” Rockwood said.

The ultimate connection, he added, is the connection to the Spirit.

“We’ll connect you to your homeland, we’ll connect you to your family, we’ll connect you to each other. But those three connections really drive you to connect to the Spirit, manifesting the divine nature of your family,” Rockwood said.

Keynotes Filmed On-site

Many of the keynote speakers for RootsTech 2021 were recorded via Zoom or other videoconference platforms. This year, organizers tried something different.

“While the conference is still 100 percent online, we did some of the keynotes with a studio audience,” Rockwood said.

For example, boxing legend Azumah Nelson prerecorded his keynote address at a small RootsTech event in Accra, Ghana, in November. Government leaders from various countries as well as kings, queens and tribal chiefs from Ghana and Nigeria were in attendance. COVID-19 precautions were carefully followed.

Former boxing champion Azumah Nelson films his keynote address for RootsTech 2022 in front of a small studio audience in Accra, Ghana, on November 10, 2021. © 2022 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Live events were also held for Argentine singer Diego Torres’s keynote in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and French baker Apollonia Poilâne’s keynote in Versailles, France. A fourth live event is planned in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, during RootsTech, March 3–5.

“There have been a lot of learnings and a lot of power of having that life and vitality of a live audience but still in an online conference,” Rockwood said. “Jen’s team did a fabulous job of testing that hybrid model for what we might be able to do in the future.”

Elder Hamilton added: “We’ve been even more global in our approach to the keynotes, and I think that’s going to be a big draw. Some of these people are very well known in their homelands, and I think that will be exciting for people to be able to come see and interact with these keynote speakers.”

Other keynote speakers were filmed documentary style — such as actor Matthew Modine who appears in Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and was filmed in his hometown of New York City.

RootsTech’s Family Discovery Day speakers — Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Rosana Soares — were filmed in their homeland of Brazil.

More Relevant Content

Last year’s 1,500 sessions have become a vast online learning library on RootsTech.org and YouTube where people can learn about and find help with almost any family history-related topic.

A screenshot of the Sessions tab on RootsTech.org shows a few of the thousands of sessions from RootsTech Connect 2021. An additional 900 sessions will be added for RootsTech 2022. Image is a screenshot from RootsTech.org, courtesy of Church News. All rights reserved.

This year’s event will feature nearly 900 additional sessions from presenters around the world, many in a shorter format. RootsTech organizers have been more strategic about quality over quantity.

“A big part of the definition of quality is relevance — relevance to the locality, relevance to the global audience,” Rockwood said. “More localized, relevant content is quality.”

For example, a session specifically about family history research in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is more beneficial than general information about African genealogy.

“The biggest thing about the content this year is that it’s even more localized,” said Rockwood. “We’ll start curating … so that every single homeland has every type of learning that they need.”

RootsTech 2022 will also feature cultural videos highlighting dance, food and storytelling from around the world.

Relatives at RootsTech

Improvements have also been made to the Relatives at RootsTech feature. By connecting to the FamilySearch Family Tree, participants can see how they are related to other RootsTech attendees. After last year’s success in attracting a large number of participants, developers have been working to increase the feature’s capacity.

“It was such a hit. It was so powerful,” Elder Hamilton said. “We had so many people who came and wanted to experience that.”

The overwhelming interest in this feature, Rockwood said, is evidence of the desire to connect.

“We had many come to learn because it was online and free,” he said of RootsTech. “And many exponentially more came to connect. So now we just need to increase our capacity to handle more and more people to come and connect, which we’ve done.”

A Promise to RootsTech Attendees

Rockwood said he hopes all FamilySearch users and all Latter-day Saints see RootsTech as an opportunity to invite their family and friends to experience the joy of connection. RootsTech is not a broadcast — it’s an interactive experience, he emphasized.

“This is not just a family history conference — this is a celebration of family,” Rockwood said. “And this is a way to connect with family past, present and future.”

He continued, “Our promise to all of our patrons, as well as to the Church, is that we will create inspiring experiences that bring joy to all people. And we do that as they discover, gather and connect their families. …

“Whether you come for a class, you come for the keynotes, you come to the expo hall, you come for the Church leadership instruction, or you come just to connect with Relatives at RootsTech, be promised those can be inspiring experiences, and it all comes back to discovering, gathering or connecting your family.”

The annual Temple and Family History Leadership Instruction for Latter-day Saints will be held in conjunction with RootsTech. On-demand viewing will be available starting March 3 at 10 a.m. on ChurchofJesusChrist.org and in the Gospel Library.

Register for RootsTech 2022 at RootsTech.org.

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