RootsTechConnect 2021- A show with a difference

Apologies for the slight break in my current series of posts about mapping software. If you haven’t seen the first one yet, you can find it here. I had to publish this post next, as it is quite time sensitive- any later and I would really miss the boat!

RootsTechConnect 2021

So, as I am sure you can work out from the title, this post will be about RootsTechConnect. I attended the show and both helped out with some of the exhibitors and had a look at some of the talks.

My first thought was how weird it all was! Having been to the last RootsTech in London in 2019 (getting on for two years ago, can you believe?), it definitely was different. Needs certainly must though this year, and in the absence of RootsTech being able to take place in person, RootsTechConnect was the solution.

To chat or not to chat?

As I am sure everyone will agree, it is much more fun to be able to meet up with fellow genealogists of all ages and stages of research. Meeting people (both new and old) is one of the reasons we travel the many miles to attend conferences like this. The team behind RootsTechConnect came up with the next best thing though, as the main mode of communication between attendees was the online chat function. I have never been a great user of online chat facilities, at least there are without a doubt those that use that sort of thing more than I do.

Whilst the online chat facility worked very well (i.e. I came across no break in service or such things), I am not sure how useful people really found it. Perhaps there were those who were chatting away, but I did not find that the case. Certainly, the chat facilities for the organisations I manned were very quiet indeed! This was true for both the Direct Messaging function, as well as the Chat Room function. The difference to a real time conversation is very obvious and I wonder if there is a better way. At least from the point of view of the organisations who took part. Instead of having to constantly man a chat function with no takers, perhaps some kind of real time video chat session would work? With each organisation having its own slot? In any case, it is something that I think would need some further thought for future online conferences.

What a range of presentations…!

Of course the best case scenario would be the ability to hold an in person conference at some point in the future. But I do think that there were benefits to holding something online. Firstly, there was the potential to connect with people from all over the world. An online conference automatically does away with the need to travel halfway across the world and improves accessibility. That is unless computer and internet access is a problem.

RootsTechConnect 2021- A show with a difference_Shersca Genealogy_RootsTech London, 2019
In the absence of any photos from this year’s conference, here is one I took back at RootsTech London in 2019. A bit of a walk down memory lane! I now have a better phone too! © 2020 Shersca Genealogy.

Unlike an in person conference, the keynote speeches were available at multiple times of the day (likely having been pre-recorded). So if you particularly wanted to hear the celebrity of the day talk about what family and genealogy means to them, just pick your time. This was also a benefit for all of the talks and lectures. There were those that were shown at a specific time, but there was also an almighty list of other pre-recorded talks that are accessible for a good long while yet. I use the word ‘almighty’ with good reason. The list of pre-recorded talks was 18 (yes, 18) pages long! I don’t know about you, but that was slightly intimidating!

As you might expect at the moment, the number of DNA talks was large. It is great to see so many people interested, although it is not always my thing. There was a great deal for the beginner, for specific countries and areas, for certain record types and that is only the tip of the iceberg. Summarising 18 pages worth in a few sentences is not going to happen successfully, so I will have to just say that the choice was huge. Being a worldwide conference, I could see that the organisers were trying to cater to a huge range of interests. No obvious Medieval subjects though, but that’s just me…

…but was that a problem?

There is a problem with the range of talks that were available.  As I said before, I found it intimidating and perhaps there were slightly too many. There were certainly many more than would be available at an in person conference, and choosing between ones available usually are difficult enough! I also felt the search function on the RootsTechConnect website was not as helpful as it could be. Perhaps it is just the researcher in me that would like to have seen an easier classification of the available talks. For instance, classifying by the language the talk is presented in is great, but I could see no further way of filtering. I still had to go through an endless scrolling process, making it almost essential to know the name of the talk to avoid that. However, if this is down to my lack of technical ability I will happily be corrected!

The talks I had a chance to view over the weekend were well presented and informative, although I would say that some were not automatically clear as to the country they related to. (Note to self: remember to read the description first!) There are still some that I would like to look at, so it is great that they will be around for some time to come. Having had a look (and been a part of) some of the exhibitor’s ‘stands,’ I thought the overall look was very professional and the allowance of different videos and uploads was helpful for both visitors and exhibitors. From a purely British perspective, I did feel that some of the usual suspects were absent from the Expo Hall. But then, time and cost is something that no doubt would have played a part and would have been considered within each organisation. Being the maiden voyage of RootsTechConnect, there are no doubt those who would have been unsure as to the benefit and reach. It was interesting to see exhibitors from abroad, who I might never get to see normally. Another benefit of an online conference.

In conclusion…

There are certainly pros and cons here and some issues that could be revisited. But on the whole, at a time when we are not able to do this in person, RootsTechConnect did the next best thing. Who knows, perhaps there might be space in future for both the in person RootsTech conference and some kind of online event? No doubt the intricacies of both will need to be worked out within the current state of things. We will have to wait and see, but until then I hope to eventually see you all again, hopefully in person!

© 2021 Shersca Genealogy.

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