Last year, RootsTech invited the entire world to attend the free, virtual RootsTech Connect event. Over a million people from 240+ countries and territories showed up during the live weekend launch. The next RootsTech event will occur March 3–5, 2022 (may vary by time zones worldwide), and will once again be totally free and virtual—but it will be even better.
Since the moment last year’s conference ended, the RootsTech team has been making improvements based on what they learned from the 2021 experience. Here’s what to expect on the main stage, in the virtual classroom, in the Expo Hall, and with your ability to connect with other attendees.
A Traveling Main Stage
In past years, thousands of attendees converged in a huge hall to enjoy their favorite celebrities live on the RootsTech main stage. It’s a TED Talk-meets-concert kind of vibe. “Going virtual, it’s hard to create that same kind of energy on a small screen in your living room,” says Jen Allen, RootsTech Director. “In 2022, we want to up the production value of our keynotes and give you more of the experience you’d get in front of a live audience.”
For 2022, keynote speakers are being prerecorded in their home countries in front of live, in-language audiences who know and love them. (COVID-19 safety protocols are being observed). “We aren’t announcing the keynote speakers yet, but we can say you’ll see a variety of well-loved faces from around the world,” says Allen. “Filming in each homeland means we capture the flavors of each culture more authentically and on a much bigger scale.”
“We’ve already filmed in France, on a stage at the Palais des Congrès at Versailles, and in other locations that are important to our speaker,” she reports. “You’ll get a taste of Paris delivered right to your living room. As I speak, our team is sending me footage from our keynote event in Ghana, where a lively audience is cheering on a speaker and celebrating with music and dance. These prerecordings are turning out beautifully and will help attendees feel like they are at a live event, even though it is virtual.”
Other prerecorded keynotes are planned, though they are evolving as COVID-19 situations evolve globally. (For example, events in New York City and Manila had to be canceled or rearranged.) “Argentina has just opened, so we plan to move ahead with an event in Buenos Aires. In January, we will be in Dubai at the World Expo, which is incredible, since there haven’t been a lot of family history events in the Middle East,” remarked Allen.
The main stage will also host prerecorded video segments that celebrate diverse cultures. Dancers in full costume perform mesmerizing dances while explaining how dance helps them connect to their heritage. Presenters share mouthwatering traditional foods and the stories behind them. These professionally-staged events will entertain the RootsTech audience, while inspiring them with greater cultural appreciation.
Only the Best in the RootsTech Classroom
Also core to the RootsTech experience are classes that help people more meaningfully explore their family history. Last year, more than 2,000 virtual sessions in several languages covered topics such as historical records, DNA, and preserving family stories.
“It was actually too much to be able to discover and watch everything you might want to,” admits Allen. “There will still be a lot this year, but not as much. We will be serving up only the best of the best for each topic.”
To improve online learning in 2022, the RootsTech technology team has been improving the website, which was brand new last year and had a few weaknesses. “There were so many classes and speakers that weren’t easily found,” says Allen. “We are improving discoverability of the topics you are searching for. We want you to be able to filter by topic, language, and even world region.”
In 2022, attendees will enjoy more than 500 new sessions by hundreds of top-shelf presenters in a dozen languages. Translation services will even be provided for some key, universal topics. RootsTech 2022 will also see the debut of a few new categories and unique topics you may not have seen before at RootsTech.
Innovation in the Expo Hall
In the RootsTech Expo Hall, attendees discover innovative products and services that can support their genealogy goals. It’s a vibrant marketplace of mini-storefronts, where businesses and volunteer organizations hand out freebies and share their most exciting offerings. Some even host their own classes and product demonstrations.
“In-person, it’s easy to walk around and grab your free candy and discover new and interesting things that will support your genealogy goals,” says Allen. “But expo halls are not the easiest thing to replicate in a virtual world!” RootsTech 2021 Expo Hall vendors stepped up to the challenge despite a huge learning curve. But since about 90% of attendees last year were new to RootsTech, many weren’t aware of the Expo Hall and what it offered.
“In 2022, we will be making attendees more aware of what the Expo Hall is and why it’s valuable,” says Allen. “We’ll have more opportunities for ‘digital swag,’ like free downloads and other giveaways.” The RootsTech Calendar tool will integrate live Expo Hall events among the other scheduled live events. “These live sessions in the Expo Hall will help pull people in, teach them what’s new and great, and boost the energy of the online experience,” added Allen.
“We are also adding some gamification, which is a popular feature of in-person RootsTech conferences,” Allen says. “We’re working on games that will encourage people to visit the virtual vendors and bring the fun factor.”
Connecting at RootsTech 2022
One of the most popular features of RootsTech Connect 2021 was Relatives at RootsTech. Attendees could opt in to this giant social network to discover other relatives worldwide who were attending. You could see how you are related to another attendee, based on data drawn from the global, free, FamilySearch Family Tree and attendee chats. (It’s so much more effective than the in-person conference tradition of wearing your family tree on a T-shirt in the hopes a cousin will notice it!)
“Everybody loved Relatives at RootsTech!” Allen says. “In 2022, it will be even better. The look and experience may be similar, but last year it could only support so many people before our servers would crash. This year it will support millions more people at the same time, helping everyone find out if they’re related. I hope people find more connections in places all over the world.”
Attendees who want to participate in Relatives at RootsTech should sign up for a free FamilySearch account now and connect to the FamilySearch Family Tree. Even better, they should explore and extend their branches in the online tree—ahead of time if possible. Adding new data (and correcting mistakes from other contributors to your common family tree branches) empowers the Relatives at RootsTech tool to identify more—and more accurate—connections.
Registration for RootsTech 2022 is Now Open
Registration for RootsTech 2022, which will be held from March 3–5, 2022, will be completely free for everyone around the world. “Save the date,” advises Allen. “This is an event you won’t want to miss! Subscribe to RootsTech social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, and invite your family and friends to do the same. Join us on those channels in the coming weeks for fun games and activities as we build up to the global family history event of the year in 2022!”