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Winter 2005/2006
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Hosting a Successful Event

GIS Day 2006

  photo of seashell globe presentation
Antonique Sweeting, Bahamas National Geographic Information Systems Centre GIS analyst, presents a special GIS Seashell Globe (sponsored by Spatial Innovision, Jamaica) to Bahamas' Prime Minister Perry Christie during their GIS Day 2005 opening ceremonies.

On Wednesday, November 15, 2006, the world will participate in the eighth annual celebration. People and organizations all over the globe will join in this grassroots event by organizing and hosting a wide variety of activities from open houses to map galleries, software demonstrations to school presentations, and facility tours to hands-on workshops.

Although the annual celebration occurs each November, your GIS Day celebrations can be held any day and every day!

At first glance, hosting a GIS Day event might seem like an overwhelming task. Who do I invite? What kind of event should I hold? What activities should be planned? What's the best way to get the word out? But hosting a successful GIS Day event can really be quite simple and can be broken down into a few manageable parts.

Step 1: Identify Your Target Audience

The first, most important step in planning a GIS Day event is deciding who your audience will be. This will help you develop your event and plan appropriate activities. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What age group do you want at your event? You want to ensure that the content of your event is appropriate and interesting for all age groups present. For a presentation with both children and adults in attendance, be prepared to give examples and demonstrations appropriate to both groups.
  • Is this an internal event, or will it be open to the public? Remember that it may not be possible to show proprietary data to the public.
  • Will you invite prospective and/or current clients? If so, you may want to treat GIS Day as both an educational event and an awareness-building event.
  • What is the GIS knowledge of the audience? If your audience is unfamiliar with GIS, you don't want to talk in "GIS speak." Conversely, if your event is at a user group meeting, where those present are GIS knowledgeable, your presentation will be more technical.

Step 2: Decide What Type of Event to Hold

Following are a few suggestions for different types of events. Feel free to mix and match activities to customize your own special event. The most successful events will be the ones that are interactive and involve the audience. Event types to consider:

  • Open House—This is a great way to get people in your community to see GIS in action in your organization. It is also one of the easiest events to organize, as it can save you the time and effort of having to transport equipment to a different location. You can give a short PowerPoint presentation, demonstrate how your organization uses GIS, give facility tours, introduce the employees in your organization that are involved with GIS activities, display maps, or hand out posters/brochures from your company.
  • School Presentation/Demonstration—The goal of this event is to educate schoolchildren about how geography through the technology of GIS affects their everyday lives. Begin plans for this type of event by contacting an administrator or teacher at the school you wish to visit. Most teachers love introducing their students to new technology and welcome guest speakers. Make sure to give the teacher you are working with enough time to incorporate your presentation into their lesson plans. You can demonstrate how your organization uses GIS or teach the students how to create a map. Use the GIS Day exercises found in the Activities folder on the GIS Day Web site (www.gisday.com). The folder includes a variety of activity suggestions broken down by grade level and features Internet links to other GIS and geography-related exercises that are found on the Web. If computers are accessible, you may even be able to conduct a hands-on demonstration using a school or library software program such as ArcExplorer.
  • Map Gallery—Team up with other companies and organizations in your area and invite the public to a map gallery, displaying maps created with each company/organization's GIS. The map gallery can be held at your organization, local library, school, or other public facility. You might like to have software demonstrations running next to each map display, demonstrating how that map was constructed. You can make the event even more fun by having attendees vote for their favorite map (most informative, most artistic, most relevant to our community, etc.).
  • User Group Meeting—Hold your next user group meeting on GIS Day. Ask each user group member to bring at least one nonuser/nonmember to the meeting. You can then dedicate the meeting to educating newcomers about GIS and how the group uses it.
  • Organizational Meeting—Host your GIS Day event in conjunction with an organizational meeting in your community; chamber of commerce, school board, Lions Club, Kiwanis, and 4-H meetings are all perfect venues for sharing GIS technology. These kinds of groups dedicate countless hours working diligently to improve their communities and will most assuredly benefit from a GIS Day presentation giving them the opportunity to discover ways their own organizations could make use of GIS technology.
  • Media Event—This can be as simple as spotlighting your GIS application on your company's Web site or may be more complex and include working with local media outlets. You can create a Web Page spotlight or host a special GIS Day webcast. Be sure to invite local media as they are often looking for local interest stories to include in their broadcasts and publications.

Step 3: Getting the Word Out

  group t-shirt photo
Showing off their matching GIS Day T-shirts, Forsyth County, Georgia, GIS team members stand proudly next to the Egg Man Statue, which commemorates the vital role the poultry industry has played in Forsyth County evolution, on the front steps of the county administration building where their GIS Day 2005 festivities were held.

You may have a wonderful event planned, but without good event publicity you may find yourself alone and without an audience. Here are some ideas.

  • Mail, e-mail, or fax invitations. (Try to give your attendees enough notice. One month before the event date is usually the ideal time to send your invitations.)
  • Run newspaper or Web page announcements in a timely manner to help advertise your events.
  • Pitch your event to a local events newspaper, magazine, or broadcast reporter, and invite them to your event.
  • Notify GIS and geography organizations of your event so they may direct interested parties to you.
  • Register the event on the GIS Day Web site at www.gisday.com. Web site visitors will be able to search for an event in their local area.
  • Send reminder e-mails before the event.

Step 4: Following Up After Your Event

Be sure to thank your guests and presenters and share your GIS Day successes. Good event follow-up helps to encourage collaboration and inspire others to participate and engage in future GIS Day activities.

  • Letters and/or phone calls are a great way to obtain useful feedback on the event.
  • Ask your attendees to fill out a survey sheet or poll the room for future event recommendations.
  • Remember to submit your GIS Day 2006 photos and success stories to the GIS Day Web site (www.gisday.com/success.html#submit).

Nominate a GIS Day Hero

Every November, people worldwide volunteer their time, resources, and talents to prepare presentations for their GIS Day events. These dedicated GIS professionals, citizens, teachers, and students work hard to create opportunities for ordinary people from a variety of organizations and walks of life to experience the vast possibilities and the extraordinary power of GIS technology.

To show our appreciation for these devoted participants, we will be spotlighting GIS Day heroes throughout the year with special ArcNews articles and Web features designed to showcase their creativity and dedication. View our collection of GIS Day hero stories at www.gisday.com/heroes.html.

To nominate a GIS Day hero or to submit your hero photos, quotes, and stories, contact Maria Jordan, Esri's GIS Day coordinator (e-mail: mjordan@esri.com).

Remember—GIS Day 2006 is scheduled for Wednesday, November 15, 2006. Be sure to mark it on your calendar today and visit www.gisday.com.

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