As organizers contemplated what an online and in-person RootsTech 2023 would look like, they puzzled over how to create the right upbeat, unifying experience for all involved.
Many have said they missed the natural feeling of energy found at an in-person event. Now that is returning, but how can that energy also be shared with a virtual audience?
One idea came from watching the Super Bowl, said Jen Allen, director of events for FamilySearch.
“How can we bring that sideline reporter feel to RootsTech?” she said.
For the first time, RootsTech 2023 will feature 15 “emcees,” who will be similar to sideline reporters and will each represent a different part of the world, speak the native language, give their audience a familiar face and guide and provide more localized content during the global event on RootsTech.org.
Allen explained that good sideline reporters at sporting events connect with those watching at home and help them feel more engaged through interviews and insider access. Organizers are confident the same concept can work for RootsTech 2023.
“These emcees are the ones carrying the audience through the experience, helping them know what to expect and even giving a report of what’s happening behind the stage, just like you see at the big game,” Allen said. “It’s that idea of bringing virtual and in-person together.”
All 15 emcees were in Salt Lake City, Jan. 17-18, to film segments, receive training and make other preparations for the global family history gathering, which is scheduled for March 2-4. Registration for online or in-person is available at RootsTech.org.
The emcees were also introduced during a social media live stream Tuesday afternoon.
“What we’ve learned is that needs are different around the world and the messages need to be tweaked slightly in order to resonate in the hearts and minds of our audience,” said Jonathan Wing, RootsTech creative manager, in the live stream. “We are so excited to have the emcees who will cater that material to the varying needs of our audience all over the world.”
The 15 emcees will speak 11 languages, including English (United States, Africa, Pacific, Middle East), Spanish (Europe and Latin America), Portuguese (Europe and Latin America), French, German, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Arabic, Mandarin and Cantonese.
Jinah Jeong, a native of South Korea, spent the afternoon filming segments in the FamilySearch Library. For one segment, she sat in front of a computer screen that displayed a FamilySearch website in Korean, surrounded by cameras and a microphone. At the producer’s signal, Jeong delivered a message for the future Korean viewers. It was stressful and exciting, she later admitted.
“It’s a little bit of both,” she said. “But mostly I’m really excited to be here and be part of this event.”
Jeong has a deep love of family history work. She has been drawing the story of her family, including her grandmother’s escape from North Korea when she was 17, for the past two years. FamilySearch interviewed her about the experience, and the story will be one of the featured segments available in Korean during RootsTech 2023.
“It’s always good to know more about your family. As you get to know more about your family, you feel that strong bond to each other. This is the testimony that I have felt for the last two years by doing this work for my grandmother,” she said as tears began to flow. “I feel like I’m here because of her. It’s been a miracle ever since she made it out of North Korea. There were so many hard times in her life, but she never gave up. I think that’s why I’m here, and I’m eternally grateful for that.”
Jan Hadzik, of Germany, believes that “being the German reporter live at the event” will enhance the experience for many watching from home.
“It’s not only online, but it’s online and localized,” he said. “I think this will help more and more people worldwide to connect and unite with their ancestors and families.”
Melina Villanueva, from Mexico, is looking forward to the event and the opportunity to especially bring Latin American cultures together through family history.
“It’s super fun,” she said. “I want the people to know they are included in big events like these. Sometimes they can feel a bit left out. RootsTech involves every single one of us, no matter where we are.”
Robert Opiyo, of Kenya, will address audiences in Africa. He hopes this is just beginning of more exciting things to come for his people.
“I feel that the African audiences when they find that they have an African emcee that they feel they feel better represented,” Opiyo said. “Hopefully as more conferences come up, we will be able to see a lot more content and a lot more representations as well.”
Janice Freij will localize messages for people participating in the Middle East and North Africa. She is from Michigan and her parents are from Palestine.
“I love the fact that it’s hybrid this year,” she said. “It’s so exciting that it is going to be back in person, but then people still have the option to join virtually. So that way, we have a further reach than we have ever had before.”