I am so grateful to have gotten the chance to attend the ESRI User's Conference this year! ESRI knows how to put on a show and San Diego seems tailor-made for conferences. If you get a chance to go – do it! The sheer number of sessions and demonstrations assures you will walk away having learned something. The number of people there (18,000+) from around the world guarantees you will meet new people (and not once have to explain what GIS is). At the same time, it is small enough that you can meet up with people you already know and by the end of the week recognize a handful of new faces. And last but not least, San Diego is a fabulous host city. There’s more to do than you will have time for. And the party at Balboa Park is something you have to experience yourself.
As this was my first time attending and I was by myself, I wanted to share some things that I learned before and during the conference to help others who might be in the same boat next year.
Find out who else is going from your area. This was tough for me because I’m new to the field, but my Cloudpoint team helped me out. Send an email asking your peers who’s going and try to find them when you get there. Meeting up with friends of friends (Hi, Sarah and Eric!) at the Map Gallery was a great start to my week of meeting new people.
Speaking of meeting new people, don’t be afraid to join total strangers for things like getting your badge, grabbing lunch, enjoying a ferry ride, or catching a baseball game. (Thanks Chad, Carmen, Curt, Wendy, Melissa, and Dave!) Everybody is wearing their badge and we already have something in common. It’s easy to start a conversation with, “Where are you from?”.
Try to land a hotel on the Trolley line. It’s convenient and cheap!
Filter the schedule by topic and choose more than one session per time slot. You know, just in case a session entitled “Workforce Development Planning” is not in fact about Workforce for ArcGIS. You’ll be able to scoot out and find another session quickly.
Don’t plan your travel around the First Time Attendee’s Session Sunday afternoon. If you’re reading this and other information about going to the UC, you won’t need it. If you already happen to be in town, you could use it to meet other first timers.
If you have time, get your badge on Sunday. There were no lines and it gave me a chance to figure out the Trolley. (You can use either the Convention Center or Gaslamp District stops.)
Plan time for the Expo. I walked around a couple of times in between sessions, but I wish I had spent more time there.
Obviously there are a whole host of GIS related things I learned, but that’s for another post. Bottom line, if you’ve got the chance to go, do it! My family wasn’t able to come, but if that’s an option for you, there are plenty of things both conference related and non-conference related for them to do while you’re in sessions.
Thanks to ESRI for putting on a great conference, to Cloudpoint for sending me, and to my husband for holding down the fort while I was gone!