Storytelling Opens Thursday’s Session @RootsTechConf

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rockwood Ties 2016-The Single LeafSteve Rockwood opened Thursday’s session of RootsTech with a few of his family stories. One story he told was when he was a young boy who, although he need heart surgery, didn’t want anyone “messing with [his] heart.” The doctor didn’t gain Steve’s trust by his medical degrees and training. He gained his trust by wearing cool and funny ties. Although the doctor’s expertise was essential to young Steve’s care, it was the ties that won Steve’s confidence. And subsequently, Steve’s doctor did not try to turn him into a heart doctor.

The same is true with family history. A family member may need the outcomes of family history: love, peace, joy, happiness, belonging, etc., but may not need to become a genealogist. Steve encouraged conference attendees to consider someone in their family who would benefit from sharing a family story. He suggested that a different approach may be necessary and encouraged everyone to make it fun, in small doses, to build trust and relationship.

Rockwood introduced his neighbor, Kathy Tarullo, a stay-at-home mom who recently graduated with a bachelor of general studies degree with an emphasis in family history and genealogy. Rockwood and his wife Jill were invited to Kathy’s graduation party where she served refreshments associated with her ancestors decoratively arranged with a story behind each one. Kathy also mentioned another project she is working on where she is taking an ancestor’s story and turning it into a children’s book written in poetic form. These are some of the ideas shared to inspire attendees to consider ways of making family history part of everyday life.

RootsTech began to trend #4 on @Twitter during the opening session of RootsTech Photo credit: Wendy Smedley

RootsTech began to trend #4 on @Twitter during the opening session of RootsTech Photo credit: Wendy Smedley

Next up was the host of BYUtv’s American Ride Stan Ellsworth. He surprised the crowd by entering the hall on his classic Harley-Davidson. I’ve been to RootsTech, even before it was known by its new name, and I have NEVER seen anything like it! Ellsworth shared his passion for the American story that is our collective story. Nevertheless, “every American family has its own unique heritage, traditions, its own roots ’cause all of us came from somewhere before we came here,” Ellsworth said. He continued, “every American family has its own story to tell … These people want their stories remembered; they want their stories to be celebrated. You can begin your own journey. You can start your own exploration. You can find your heroes. You can find your heritage. You can find your roots. So kick a leg over and begin to discover your family’s own unique American ride.”

After his impassioned speech, Ellsworth was delighted to introduce Paula Williams Madison, a successful businesswoman who retired in 2011 to pursue the story of her maternal grandfather Samuel Lowe. Madison thanked FamilySearch for helping her find her Chinese family. She credits FamilySearch and the individuals who index for solving this mystery in her family. If you are a volunteer and ever wondered if what you do makes a difference, Paula Williams Madison wants you to know that you do.

Before RootsTech I listened to her memoir, Finding Samuel Lowe: China, Jamaica, Harlem. I chose the audio book so that I could listen to Madison’s story in her own voice. It made a difference to me. I encourage you to watch her keynote address, read or listen to her book, and watch the documentary. It is an amazing family journey.

Regrettably, Paula Williams Madison’s uncle, the youngest son of Samuel Lowe, passed away in China the Sunday before RootsTech. As her American family members returned to China to gather and attend the funeral, Paula determined that she would give her keynote address at RootsTech. It’s the way her uncle would have wanted it. After briefly meeting with the media, Paula began the long journey to China arriving with 4 hours to spare before her uncle’s funeral. My personal condolences to Paula Williams Madison and her extended family in Harlem, Jamaica, and China at the loss of such a wonderful patriarch. I am so grateful that Paula found her family and reconnected with them during the last few years.

Next, Bruce Feiler took center stage. He began his remarks by saying that he felt like RootsTech is the “Super Bowl of storytelling.” [This may be true but just an FYI, “Super Bowl” is a registered trademark of the NFL.] He told stories of his adventures in his keynote address:

Feiler says that the “secret sauce” of a happy family is that they TALK, they talk a lot, about what it means to be a family. He recommends 3 things that families can do to be happier:

  1. Write a family mission statement.
  2. Do storytelling games in your family.
  3. Tell your family history; use pictures.

Feiler said that the single most effective idea for a happy family is to tell your family’s story. It is the same for biological and/or adopted families. It is the family narrative that is critical for the resilience of its individuals. He recommends that a person grounds their story in the oldest stories ever told, find a way to make it part of everyday, and don’t keep the story to one’s self, but share it! He mentioned that his New York Times article, The Stories That Bind Us, was the most emailed article for an entire month and, out of the 850,000,000 articles saved to the Pocket app, it was the second most saved article on the entire planet for the entire year. It’s worth the read.

He also encourages seniors to tell their story. He is working on another book and made a request that attendees write to him and tell him their experiences of how they accomplished this in their own families.

Feiler was diagnosed with cancer a number of years ago. On the one year anniversary of that fateful day, he asked his doctor what advice the doctor would give Feiler’s daughters if they came to him. The doctor replied, “I would tell them what I learned. I would tell them that everybody dies, but not everybody lives. I want you to live.” As a family historian I would add, “and set aside time to record it.”

Bruce Feiler closed his keynote address with great counsel for all of us: “Every now and then find a friend, take a walk, and share a story.” I witnessed a lot of this as I went about my day at RootsTech.

RootsTech is a massive conference with many opportunities throughout each day, including the event organized to index the records of the Freedmen’s Bureau. These records were created when the bureau was established in 1865 by Congress to help former black slaves and poor whites in the South in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War. Although RootsTech is an unique experience to each person, it is almost universally a very long, engaging, and exhausting day for all!

Copyright ©2016 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

Entrepreneurs, Industry Leaders & Interested Genealogists Gathered for the Climb @RootsTechConf

A conference is a time of anticipation, a time of gathering, a time of seeing old friends and meeting new. It’s a time of learning and teaching. It’s a time of ideas, a time of product evaluations, and purchase considerations. It’s a time of networking, a time of connection, and a time of celebration. RootsTech is a celebration of “families across generations!”

RootsTech, with the Innovator Summit, is the largest conference of its kind. In 4 days, with 200+ sessions, and 26,000 on-site conference attendees, time is limited and moments are embraced. Nevertheless, when it’s over, there is not one person who could experience all that RootsTech has to offer: 26,000+ people on-site — 26,000+ unique life experiences!

The month of February hosts a favorite holiday of mine, Groundhog Day. Since the movie by the same name was released in 1993, Groundhog Day has come to symbolize repetition, at least until one gets it “right.”

In honor of this idea …

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The day began as entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and interested genealogists gathered for the climb at the Innovator Summit. Steve Rockwood opened the conference with his first public address since his appointment as CEO of FamilySearch International.

Rockwood says that powerful, positive core feelings about family history are universal. These feelings are the catalyst for action. FamilySearch International will focus on the following five categories of experiences that invoke these feelings to grow the family history audience:

  • Discovery — it can be as simple as a story at the dinner table or as complex as the algorithm that provides hinting
  • FamilyTree — growing the tree that binds and connects us together
  • Searchable Records — search faster, more effectively, “a huge nut to crack” for the benefit of the Google generation
  • Memories — stories and photos,  projected to involve more people in the industry than any other category as millennials are seen as “a journaling generation like the world has never seen”
  • Contextual Help — provide help where millennials are and in the way that they want to receive it

Rockwood closed by saying, “Let us continue to focus in on how to help family historians do their wonderful thing and grow that space, but at the same time, how could we then work with the partners here at RootsTech to maybe bring family history out and become part of the fabric of everyday life? My name is Steve Rockwood. I look at things inside out, upside down, and backwards. When I look at you, I get pumped. I’m excited. And we thank you for coming here and we hope this will be a very fruitful four days for you here at RootsTech. Thank you very much.”

Ken Krogue, president and founder of InsideSale.com, is an industry leader and a self-proclaimed family history and genealogy nut. “When you talk about your passion, good things happen.” I highly recommend you watch his presentation.

If you don’t have the time, you may glean a tidbit or two from this summary:

Principles of InsideSales Marketing

  • Innovation — applying what works in other worlds to your own
  • Go Sell Something — according to one study, four experiences increase one’s ability to sell: 1) a background in competitive sports, 2) being an LDS (Mormon) returned missionary, 3) being an Eagle Scout, and 4) a background in Microsoft Office, particularly Word and Excel
  • Keep a Fresh Perspective — new people bring vision
  • Find What Works Then Focus, Focus, Focus — 5 Things Business Can Learn From A Tree
  • Provide Crazy Value — Price, Quality, Speed (e.g. Costco)
  • “Divert a river … don’t dig a well.”
  • Swim with the Sharks
  • Does one person really matter? — The Currency of Digital Media: Views, Shares, and Comments
  • Research Marketing — shows the speed at which to respond = 5 minutes or less
  • Only Raise Money When You Don’t Need It
  • Find Investors Who Invest In You
  • Manage By the Numbers — use science and statistics to make decisions
  • Digital Media Rules — take the lead
  • Content + Distribution = Results
  • Give Back Along the Way
  • Tell Your Own Story
  • Mobilize Your People

Krogue also provided a list of things to watch in family history and genealogy:

  • Apps converging to platforms
  • From growth to profitability
  • Results focus
  • Wearable tech (e.g. life management)
  • Predictive analytics
  • DNA discoveries

Ken Krogue shared an amazing story about an exchange student who came to stay 2 blocks away from his home. He was up against a proverbial brick wall in pursuit of his Krogue lineage but one night Ken awoke with the realization that the exchange student, Tanita Sode, could be related to the Sode married to Krogue’s ancestor. Tanita asked her grandmother who revealed that she had 210 pages directly relating the Krogue lineage! Krogue asked, “how did that happen?”

Krogue outlined some activities he is involved in such as family history and social media events on Facebook. On Saturday he was going to show conference attendees how to hold a Family Reunion Event on Facebook. Unfortunately, with assignments looming, I was unable to stop by in the Expo Hall. If anyone would like to share what they learned from Krogue in the Expo Hall, email me or leave your nuggets of knowledge in the comments below. Thank you! :)

FamilySearch executives from multiple departments were available to discuss the latest and greatest from FamilySearch as well as receive some feedback. For more information, see the article titled Partner Town Hall with FamilySearch Executives that I wrote for the FamilySearch blog.

One last highlight of the day was the Innovator Showdown. The field of 12 presented to a lunchtime crowd as they competed for $100,00 in cash and in-kind services. The winners were announced at a Media Banquet that evening. Ancestor Cloud, JRNL, STUDIO, The History Project, TapGenes, and Twile all made the final cut to Friday’s Innovator Showdown.

Those that attend the Innovator Summit have the opportunity to hear from industry leaders, developers, and entrepreneurs. The evening holds a number of social events and the RootsTech Hackathon, named by TechCrunch as one of the most compelling hackathons! It’s a great addition to RootsTech. Mark Wednesday, February 8, 2017 for the next Innovator Summit!

Copyright ©2016 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.