Why Everyone Deserves Their Own “Who Do You Think You Are Moment?” and Other Ramblings on RootsTech 2012

RootsTech 2012 has come and gone. In some ways I think it was a dream because the time there went by so fast, and I am still processing it all. I spent months preparing for this conference, and then in a flash it was over.

I arrived on Wednesday evening, February 1. I wish I had planned to arrive sooner because I felt I was a latecomer to the party. Many of my friends had already been there more than a week either because they attended the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy the previous week or arrived a few days early to research at the Family History Library. Unforutnately due to work and other obligations it just wasn’t feasible for me to add additional days to my RootsTech trip this year.

The minute I touched down at the Salt Lake City airport, my Blackberry began buzzing with messages. One was from Kathryn Doyle asking me if I wanted to have dinner. I had to catch the shuttle to the hotel. The airport was hopping. My first thought: “Can you say ‘Genealogists’?”

When I arrived at the Radisson, I saw so many of my genea-friends sitting in the lobby. After dinner, it was back to my room to try and get some sleep before Day 1.

Day 1

I was up very early on Thursday (Day 1) partly because of the excitement and partly because I was still on Eastern time. I was on the list for a preview tour of the exhibit hall so I headed over to the Salt Palace convention center for 7 AM. Before the tour I had a chance to visit with many fellow bloggers.

Once in the exhibit hall I saw Thomas MacEntee greeting bloggers with the customary beads and ribbons. We had a few minutes to visit before the keynote began. I decided to stay at the bloggers area and watch bags and computers and spend some quiet time working on my presentation for later on in the day. I watched the keynote address online from my netbook. Before lunch, I was interviewed by Drew Smith for the GenealogyGuys podcast.

After more visits with fellow geneabloggers and a quick look around the vendor hall I attended the BrightSolid lunch. Soon it was time for my talk, “Show, Don’t Tell: Creating Interactive Family Histories,” which I presented to a full room of attendees. There were a few minor technical glitches, namely that the wireless internet connection did not work with my netbook. But you can’t let this kind of issue stop your presentation, so I kept going and ended my talk with a musical slideshow tribute to my family that the audience really seemed to enjoy. On Thursday evening I joined about a dozen other of my lady genea-peeps for dinner at Macaroni Grill. I went to sleep early, exhausted after a fun-filled first day.

Day 2

I started Day 2 very early, attending a breakfast hosted by FamilySearch. Then I attended Ian Tester’s lecture on “Telling Stories: Transforming the Bare Facts of Genealogy Into the Astonishing Tale of You and Your Family.” I really enjoyed this talk, especially the part where he talked about how “everyone deserves their own ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ moment.” I never really get excited over celebrities, so I liked the direction of Ian’s talk about every family having interesting stories (you just have to dig). The room was “Standing Room Only” so I stood in the back for most of the lecture. I left about half way through, not because I wasn’t enjoying the lecture, but because the temperature in the room was so warm that I felt my throat was closing up and I started to cough. Not wishing to interrupt the speaker with my coughing, I quietly left. After getting some water, I then went into the panel session on “Genealogy 2.0: International Panelists Discuss Their Use of Social Media to Connect With Cousins, Collaborate on Projects, Discuss Issues, Market and Promote Genealogy Services and Perform Acts of Genealogical Kindness.” There were seats available so I sat down in the back. The ladies did a fantastic job. These were the only sessions I attended besides my own, and I wish I could have attended others.

I skipped lunch so I could set up for my session on “Learning Genealogy Online: So Many Choices, So Little Time.” Again, the room was full. The audience asked good questions. I had meetings the rest of the afternoon.

On Friday night I enjoyed watching the premiere of Season 3 of “Who Do You Think You Are?” with friends at the Peery Hotel. (Thanks to bartender Tom for letting us control the remote!). Day 2 was history.

Day 3

On Saturday I gave a talk on “A Dozen Ways to Use Your iPad 2 for Genealogy and Writing.” I was just a little bit nervous because it was the first time I was giving a presentation solely from my iPad. Thankfully, there were no technical glitches (the Internet worked because I used my own personal wi-fi card). I went to lunch with the editors from Family Tree Magazine and then headed back to the media hub in the vendor hall to conduct an audio interview with David Rencher of FamilySearch. After that I took one last tour of the vendor hall before it closed.

I enjoyed spending Saturday evening with many friends at a dinner party hosted by Janet Havorka and her family. It was nice to relax and enjoy the company. Then it was back to the hotel to pack for my early Sunday morning departure.

Overall, I enjoyed RootsTech this year. My one major complaint was: Not enough time to visit with everyone and I didn’t get to many sessions because of the way my own talks and appointments were scheduled. I think they could work a bit more on making the wi-fi connections better and expand the space a bit (supposedly the number of attendees topped 4,000). I also felt there was no real “wow” factor this year. The announcements about CensusRecords.com and the FamilySearch Indexing App were great, but I was expecting to be blown away by something (a gadget, new program, etc.) that would really excite me as a genealogist, and that didn’t quite happen. Perhaps it was because I attended last year and since they were the “New Kid on the Conference Block” there seemed to be more excitement and buzz, so in a way I knew what to expect.

That said, however, I’m already making plans to be at RootsTech in 2013 (March 21-23) and I hope to see even more genealogists there!

[For PDF versions of my presentation slides click here].

Copyright, 2012, Lisa A. Alzo

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