JB Akin never misses the Esri International User Conference (Esri UC), the largest event in the world devoted to geographic information system (GIS) technology.
"The UC is the one mandatory event that I need to go to every year," says Akin, GIS technology manager for SandRidge Energy, Inc., based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. "If I don't come here, then I end up not knowing how to plan for the year. And when I come here, I see the new tools, what people are developing, and it helps me decide what we need to do and how to spend our resources."
Next summer, thousands of GIS professionals and other Esri software users from more than 100 countries will travel to the San Diego Convention Center in California for the Esri UC. The conference will be held July 11-15, 2011.
"This event is about connecting with our users and making ourselves available to help them," says Jack Dangermond, Esri president. "At the same time, we want them to realize the incredible community they're part of and collaborate with one another on the work they do."
When asked why they make the annual trip to San Diego, attendees mention the presentations from peers; the opportunity to meet with Esri staff, partners, and exhibitors; and the Plenary Session led by Dangermond.
"What's always inspirational to me is just seeing all the people who are wandering around with the same look in their eyes, that they're going to go back and fix it and do it right," says Ken Bates, GIS extension specialist for Kentucky State University. "You meet people who have the same interests, the same problems, and you can share all that and go back home with renewed interest in what you're doing."
There's a lot to see and do at the Esri UC, whether you are new to GIS or familiar with the technology. The conference features hundreds of paper presentations, where attendees learn how others in their industries use GIS. They then take that knowledge back to their organizations. Technical sessions and demonstrations on various topics, hosted by Esri technical staff, also draw large crowds.
"The User Conference always is great for reconnecting with other people," says Ron Schell, enterprise asset manager for the Metropolitan Utilities District of Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska. "I get to meet the Esri people I work with and my program managers and I can get in touch with a lot of people like the technical support staff I frequently talk to."
With the addition of a GeoLounge last summer, connecting with peers is easier than ever. "The GeoLounge was a fantastic upgrade this year," says Brian Quinn, GIS analyst for the County of Marin in California, referring to the new networking area that provides comfortable seating and computer access.
Equally successful was the first ever GIS Managers' Open Summit, an "unconference" where GIS managers and technology evangelists dictated the agenda and drove the discussions. "The GIS Managers' Open Summit was the single most engaging experience I've had at an Esri User Conference to date," says Seth Johnstone, information manager for Wachs Water Services. The summit gave managers the opportunity to discuss solutions to common challenges, such as communicating the value of GIS to colleagues and stakeholders and coordinating data sharing both internally and externally.
The conference will begin July 11 with the Plenary Session, where Dangermond will talk about the impact GIS makes in the world and recognize unique projects making a difference in a variety of industries. Esri product engineers and other staff will then showcase the latest GIS technology, including new and enhanced tools and capabilities and how they will benefit Esri software users on the job. The session will end with awards for outstanding work and provocative discussions from distinguished keynote speakers.
The remainder of the week will be packed with technical sessions, user presentations, industry and product workshops, and Regional User Group/Special Interest Group meetings. Attendees will also be able to explore the impressive Exhibit Pavilion and Map Gallery, which will showcase hundreds of maps from GIS users around the world.
A variety of industry socials and activities will also be interspersed throughout the week so attendees can network with each other and Esri staff in more informal settings. The Esri Thursday Night Party will take place July 14. It will be a great way to wind down from the conference; you'll enjoy dinner, music, and games.
Finally, Dangermond and Esri directors will host a question-and-answer session Friday morning, July 15. Esri software users will be able to ask questions and hear more about the future of Esri and GIS. The conference gives people a "one-stop" opportunity to confer with Esri staff from Professional Services, software development, technical support, and other departments.
Though the Esri UC only occurs for one week each summer, the conference fosters an active social network all year. Follow us on
This conference is for all Esri GIS users. Complimentary registration is a benefit that comes with some software products. Get the latest 2011 Esri UC news at esri.com/uc and subscribe to the UC Insider.
We are working on more new ideas for 2011. Submit your ideas on our Facebook page. We look forward to seeing you in San Diego.