Thursday, February 26, 2015

It’s All About the Learning – So Many Choices!

Being the planner that I am, I prepared pink sheets for each day of RootsTech/FGS. They included my first and second choices for each session as well as reminders of morning, luncheon, and evening events that I wanted to attend (all filled out before arriving in Salt Lake City). I also had the RootsTech app and the FGS app (although the FGS app was a bit glitchy for me as I could not get it to close – don’t know if it was the app or my mobile but I did find myself relying on the RootsTech app which would close). Then I picked up my registration materials and had to check my card against what I had signed up and paid for – also a few glitches there, but hey that happens and the administrative people were very helpful in making corrections and reprinting.

Why the pink sheets? Well I could easily find them in my RootsTech Conference Guide or my Bullet Journal. I made a few quick notes on them (not on substance but on presentation or vibe) about each of the sessions or events I attended. By the end of each day, the pink sheets were well-worn but it worked for me (I guess I am a bit old school and new school tech-wise). What did you use and how did it work for you?

The RootsTech Opening Session was brilliant and thanks to my early morning tour (you can read about that in yesterday’s blog post) us Geneabloggers, FGS and RootsTech Ambassadors had reserved seats in the front center section (thanks RootsTech folks – that was a nice touch!). Others have written about Tan Le and her talk – my only comment – if you haven’t seen it yet, watch it – what an amazing story and what a heartfelt presentation. Really, stop reading this post (but please come back) and watch it!

Okay, thanks for coming back – onward. The introductory remarks by Dennis Brimhall were excellent. I was impressed with the numbers (shown on bright slides, meant to dazzle us and they did). More impressive were three specific items he discussed.

And RootsTech begins!

The letter he read from Darris Williams was a good reminder that we are not going to “find it all” in one place or even with one subscription or company. By using records and information from Ancestry, FindmyPast, MyHeritage and FamilySearch – Darris was able to put together his family’s history and connect to a larger family. I was thrilled to hear this story because I met Darris the previous day and learned he has a one-name study (Colt) and is a member of the Guild of One-Name Studies. Darris’ story of discovery reminds us of the importance of looking beyond our own family to make those connections to our bigger family. By studying and gathering data, images, information and stories on all the Colts (and placing his data on the FamilySearch Tree) he is adding value and sharing his research with the larger genealogy community. It is all about doing the work, making the connections, and sharing the results – brilliant!

with all the tweets it must have been trending!
The discovery center was unveiled and shown to us in a playful and entertaining way (can I just say that Dennis Brimhall is so relaxed now with a few RootsTech conferences under his belt that it was fun to watch this - oh, and I want to be a pirate). He introduced the “museum of me” concept (and wouldn't we all want one!) with the ability to learn the meaning, origin and migration associated with our surname. Hey – that guy is stealing my session – no – wait, I definitely need to use this as an example in my session on surname research and one-name studies, better take some photos! The discovery center is live in Salt Lake City and will be coming to a city near you in the future (happy to hear that Seattle, Washington will be one of the pilot locations).

It is fun but also informative - a good way
to meet people where they are and get them started.

Definitely a WOW factor!

The meaning and origin of a surname - brilliant!

Where will your "museum of me" be located?
The news that Ancestry and FamilySearch were working together to bring the Mexican vital records online with images and indexing in 2015 was a wonderful example of each company sharing its strengths and joining as a team, all for the greater good of the genealogy community. My first thought on hearing the news was that this type of record set will make it much easier for anyone doing research and much easier to work on a one-name study with Mexican roots. Since the Guild of One-Name Studies is a worldwide group, we want to encourage those with an interest in their Mexican roots (whether located in Mexico or the Southwest USA States or elsewhere in the world) to study their surnames and start one-name studies.

Excellent news - thanks Ancestry and FamilySearch
It's all about collaboration!

I love it when people and companies work together
we get so much more done - teamwork!
After the opening session – it was time to check the pink sheet for the day! Below is a list of the sessions I attended on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  I chose these sessions because I wanted to expand my knowledge base about record sets and ethnic groups that are important to use with my own family research and/or would be helpful to use with the USA membership of the Guild of One-Name Studies. There were a few sessions that I could not attend due to timing conflicts – but they are on my list for future attendance. These include Native American, African American, Jewish, and Hispanic records and research (I would love to see tracks on this type of research at future RootsTech conferences).

21st Century Italian Genealogy with Michael Cassara
Irish Records – Beyond the Obvious with Rosalind McCutcheon
The Best Scandinavian Websites with Anita Olsen

Impossible Immigrant! Exhausting Research to Find an Ancestor’s Origins with Warren Bittner
Who Does That? An Introduction to One-Name (Surname) Studies with Tessa Keough (shameless plug!)

Beyond the Census: The Nonpopulation Schedules with Deena Coutant
Manuscripts and More with Pamela Boyer Sayre
School Daze – Finding the School Records of Our Ancestors with Peggy Lauritzen 

Be Our Guest, Be Our Guest, Be Our Guest!
I also made a point to attend sessions taught by new-to-me speakers. We often get the opportunity to hear Thomas MacEntee, Judy Russell, Thomas Jones and Lisa Louise Cooke. They are well known speakers and are in demand at statewide, regional and national conferences, as well as online webinars. Since I was at RootsTech/FGS and there were all those choices, I wanted the opportunity to hear other speakers and less well known topics, so I made a point to search out these focused presentations. I took lots of notes and learned the basics as well as how to find and use specific record sets highlighted in these talks. Beyond that, I was able to appreciate not only the substance but also the style of each of the speakers and that was a good learning experience.

Denna showed me how to solider on even with allergies, Pamela quickly recovered and showed a sense of humor with the glitches she experienced with her projector/computer combo, Peggy had such a relaxed and entertaining way about her (that can only come from really knowing your material) that she made it look effortless. The amount of information (websites, ideas, strategies) shared by Michael, Rosalind, Anita and Warren as they each addressed specific groups (let’s hear it for the Italians, Irish & Scandinavians!) as well as those always hard to find immigrants (or at least on the censuses I am researching) was wonderful. My only concern is when I will find the time to dive deep into all those genealogy finds.

As you can see, I did not attend every opening or closing session or schedule myself back-to-back with sessions, or attend sessions only with RootsTech or FGS. I definitely took the time to visit with other attendees, watched some Demo Theatre sessions and Out of the Box sessions, did not overload my schedule, gave myself time to check out the Exhibit Hall for a short bit each day, and stopped for meals and shopping (thank you Macys for having Ellen Tracy on sale!). No worries on getting my walking in as these sessions were all over the Salt Palace.

When we attend a statewide, regional or national conference, let's get outside our comfort zone and learn something (an ethnic group or record set) that we are unfamiliar with. Water that genealogy tree and watch it grow! 

Courtesy of ID-10064502
Thanks RootsTech and FGS for providing all of us who attended (in person or virtually) that opportunity.

Did you attend the Thursday, Friday and Saturday sessions? How did you spend your time? What sessions did you go to? What did you learn? Why not share your experiences (either comment below or tell us in your blog).

Tomorrow – What I learned being a first time presenter and my final thoughts on a VERY BIG conference.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

RootsTech and FGS Built It – and We All Came to the Exhibit Hall

Bright and early on Thursday morning I arrived at the Salt Palace to get a “before it opens to the public” tour of the RootsTech/FGS Exhibit Hall. Thanks to the FamilySearch folks for giving Geneabloggers, RootsTech and FGS Ambassadors that “behind the scenes” tour. We got to watch vendors put the finishing touches on their exhibits, and RootsTech volunteers check carpets, signs and electrical or internet connections. I kept thinking that this was the calm before the storm (and by that I mean in about two hours - 20,000 people were going to storm the Exhibit Hall!).

Lights on - soon this area will be swamped!

The water feature - and the start of our early morning tour.

Really nice product and booth - Well done Panstoria

Studio C - these cutouts would prove to be
very popular for photo ops

The Media Hub - always well guarded
Were they keeping the bloggers in or attendees out?

The only time all week these computers were at rest

FGS Society Showcase - clever idea to have those balloons

I was impressed with the quality and look of so many of the booths (although with setups as large as those of the big players – Ancestry, FamilySearch, FindmyPast and MyHeritage – I don’t think you can call them booths!). Clearly these sponsors spent time and money so attendees would have “an experience” and we certainly did. Well done! Many of the smaller vendors also did a great job with their booths. It was interesting to see the wide array of services, products and educational materials. I was impressed with the setup for the Media Hub, the Demo Theater and the Discovery Zone (and appreciated that they were spread out among the various exhibits). I understand why the big players were “front and center” as we came in the main doors (after all they underwrote much of the cost), but it would have been nice to have them more spread out in the Exhibit Hall as each had demonstrations and videos going all through the day and there were definitely large groups of people at all times as well as a constant din in that front section.

Since this was my first genealogy conference – these are my impressions as an attendee and future potential exhibitor:

Why are you exhibiting at RootsTech? – Do you have a product or service – if so, what is it, how will it help me, who is your target, and do you have your “elevator speech” to share with me as I walk by and/or stop? If you don’t have a great sign or banner (something that I can see from the walkway) and/or you don’t have an inviting “who we are” in the conference guide to get my attention, chances are I won’t be stopping by.

Give me something – I know that sounds crass but  – many of the vendors provided a button, a ribbon, a bag, or a raffle prize – and you should to. First, it is a great advertisement for your company or product. Second, it’s a good ice breaker and gets the conversation started. I was happy to have something to give people who stopped by the FGS Society Showcase – on Saturday - we gave away FGS bags and encouraged people to enter the giveaway for a free registration to the FGS 2016 conference.

Exhibiting at a conference is about more than selling your product – the vendors who simply sold missed out on the opportunity to inform, teach, make connections, and provide help to the attendees. You may have had great sales (and I get that is why you were at RootsTech) but it is about something more. I wanted to understand the services and products offered – for many vendors I can purchase your items online (and I had airline baggage limits!) so I appreciated the time you took to explain your product or service, answer questions, give suggestions, and point me in the right direction. I did not appreciate those vendors who chatted amongst themselves and ignored me (and others), or who had no idea of how their product or service related to the genealogy community.

I made a point of going through the RootsTech Conference Guide and circled those booths and exhibits that I wanted to check out. There weren't enough hours in the day (unless you skipped some sessions) to give the Exhibit Hall its due – and that must have been tough on the exhibitors and vendors - three eight-hour days can be tiring, you did an amazing job!). In future it might be nice to have a 2 or 3 hour block for the Exhibit Hall when there aren’t any sessions and then close down the Exhibit Hall during sessions or only keep the big players open, as they do for many other types of conferences.

With the proviso that I didn’t get to see everything (but I did make a couple of circuits each day) I was impressed with these exhibitors:

FamilySearch’s discovery zone - it certainly got lots of attention after it was showcased during the opening session. Loved the idea of the museum of me and the fun aspects of finding out about given names, surnames, migration, and how to place yourself in your family’s history. Well done to FamilySearch to being interactive and meeting budding genealogists where they are!

MyHeritage’s orange bags and helpful booth personnel – those bags were big, comfortable to put over your shoulder and collect ‘stuff’ on Exhibit Hall forays. Your booth layout was excellent - easy to navigate and personnel who could answer questions and provide some suggestions.

Panstoria’s discount cards and videos – well informed booth personnel and interesting videos really showed off your product to the best advantage. No hard sells at this booth and a nice discount that could be used in future. I was especially interested in your product as I am transferring from Creative Memories – you answered my questions and it appears it will be a breeze!

Outside the Box Sessions – the powerhouse genealogists (Janet Hovorka, Lisa Louise Cooke, Denise Levenick & Maureen Taylor) did some great 30 minute sessions and kept it entertaining at their booth. Sometimes all I wanted was a quick overview of something – their handout with their schedule, prize drawing, and their sessions was really helpful! The only quibble was the seating area (these ladies were popular) and the booth’s proximity to the Demo Theatre – all those mics and music were a bit distracting.

Shotbox’s brilliant idea becomes reality – the guys at the Shotbox booth have solved a problem for me! A clever and useful idea and they were happy to explain it and give me a demonstration using my mobile phone’s camera. I sent the photos to my sister and we are on the waiting list for this tabletop photo light studio – excellent “kick the tires” approach to showing off your product.

Unlock the Past Cruises – how can you go wrong with Alona Tester and Helen Smith meeting and greeting you? This booth had lots of information, it was nicely laid out and their booth personnel were friendly and helpful.

Chickasaw Cultural Center's materials - beautiful brochure and booklet as well as thoughtful booth personnel. I was so impressed with this booth and these were materials that I took home! I was pleased to see Native American culture represented and it would be great to see more of our Native American tribes represented - excellent. 

Some of my favorite things!
The best takeaways from my Exhibit Hall travels:

FGS stylus – very nice, it’s a pen, no it’s a stylus – no it’s both! So thank you, thank you FGS. I used this handy dandy stylus with my mobile phone from the moment I got it. Brilliant!

MyHeritage orange bag – loved this, MyHeritage gets points in both categories! Also took it grocery shopping with me. My nephew who is a fan of Oregon State wants it (for the orange) so I will have to keep my eye on this one!

Aussie pen – thanks to Pauleen Cass for this gem – lovely, colorful and every time I use it, I will think of my genea-friends from down under!

Anyone that gave out buttons or ribbons or blogger beads – you gave it some thought, knew we wanted some bling and you delivered. In return, you got some free advertising and our appreciation. I did not get to all of you but thanks to Ancestry, FGS, MyHeritage, Midwest Genealogy Center, RootsMagic, and Unlock the Past Cruises – happy to advertise for you! And I also appreciated the ribbons that made a statement and were subtle - #genealogy and I’m Connected. I was proud to wear by Geneabloggers’ beads and enjoyed meeting up with my fellow Geneabloggers (thanks Pat, Russ and Thomas). I missed out on some ribbons and buttons that I should have picked up (my fault – too many things to do and too little time) but to those of you with the budget (and I know some of you were there on a shoestring – so thanks for making the effort to exhibit), you might want to consider doing something in the future.

Tomorrow – Opening Sessions & What I Learned at RootsTech