How to Prepare for and What to Expect at the Esri International User Conference
Hear What a New Attendee and a GIS Journalist Have to Say About the Esri UC
While Esri begins planning for the 2010 Esri International User Conference (Esri UC)—being held in San Diego, California—GIS users worldwide are also beginning to make their own plans for justifying the trip, scheduling their time at the conference, and arranging travel to and from the venue. To help users in this process, Esri has asked a user and a GIS journalist to author a few words about what it's like to attend the conference, from valuable benefits and personal favorites to tips and tricks when creating a customized agenda. Contributor Nancy Johnson Sanquist is an International Facility Management Association (IFMA) fellow and vice president of Manhattan Software in Milford, Massachusetts. She attended the Esri UC for the first time in 2009. Contributor Glenn Letham is a cofounder and managing editor of GISuser.com. He's a 10-year conference veteran.
Nancy Johnson Sanquist, Vice President of Manhattan Software, International Facility Management Association Fellow
I've been in the field of facility management and corporate real estate technology for the past 25 years and have attended hundreds of professional conferences for my industry all over the world. None of this prepared me for anything like the Esri UC.
Most conferences have one keynote speaker who is usually a motivational celebrity or the latest business writer/guru/futurist not necessarily related to the work of the attendees. The Esri UC Plenary Session offered a virtual parade of well-known people explaining how GIS helped them do important work in the world.
I can't recall attending another conference where I've seen awards presented, not just to a "super user" of a product, but also to users who happen to be the governor of Maryland (whose GIS implementation is being copied by other states) and a world-leading economist designing new property rights systems for the world's urban poor, using GIS to unlock a trillion dollars of dead capital in untitled assets.
Hearing Maryland governor Martin O'Malley's story of applying GIS for crime prevention in Baltimore and then for the entire system of state government and Hernando de Soto's description of a pilot project in Ghana using geospatial technologies to create a land titling process and land records system were truly inspirational to me and, I suspect, to most of the thousands of people in the plenary.
And this was only the tip of the iceberg. The Special Displays area and Map Gallery, Exhibit Hall, and informative industry sessions all help a first-time attendee like me really want to be part of the Esri community.
While the implementation that my company, Manhattan Software, has designed to integrate our real estate asset management system with the Esri Business Analyst application may not be as showstopping as what these keynote speakers are doing, we do believe we're going to change the way many corporations all over the world visualize, collaborate, and make financial decisions on their real estate portfolios.
We've just begun to explore and consider all the possibilities this solution offers; I suspect we can't even imagine where these integration initiatives will take us. Attending the User Conference exposed us to literally hundreds of ideas we hadn't thought about before. It was a very energizing and useful experience.
For more information, contact Nancy Johnson Sanquist, Manhattan Software (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel.: 858-699-0827).
Glenn Letham, Cofounder and Managing Editor of GISuser.com
The Esri UC means many different things, depending on who you talk to. To some, it's an educational event; to others, a business retreat. Some are there with family members for a week in sunny San Diego (with a little geobusiness thrown in), many are attracted to the conference for the social activities, and others just want a chance to hear directly from Esri president and founder Jack Dangermond about the direction of the company and new GIS solutions. There's no question, though, that the Esri UC is the geotechnology event of the year, and to have a successful conference, I'm a firm believer that preconference planning and calendar preparation are crucial to get maximum return on investment from the event. There are also a few things during the conference that I feel an attendee must do.
For me, preconference planning involves the filling in of a calendar and a detailed once- or twice-over of the conference agenda, mainly to ensure that I get to all the sessions that are important to me. I also typically write one or two pre-event articles using a "What's Coming" or "What's Hot" theme—this really helps me prepare. You might wish to do so as well and share with your coworkers for feedback or trip justification.
Finally, in typical top 10 fashion, I'll share with you 10 other important things I try to do each year to ensure that I have a productive and enjoyable user conference experience:
The Esri UC conference week is long, but it will go fast. Plan ahead accordingly and make the most of every hour while you're there. It may sound corny and a little daunting, but if you get a chance to take part in an Esri UC, try to do it all. You'll be glad you did. You can always rest on the flight home.
For more information, contact Glenn Letham (e-mail: email@example.com, Twitter: @gletham).