Skip navigation
All Places > Events > User Conference > Blog > 2018 > May

This week we will be discussing the third annual Esri Science Symposium. The Symposium started in 2015 by Esri’s Chief Scientist Dawn Wright as a reception for the 300 scientists of the GIS community attending the UC. In 2016, the reception expanded into the first actual Symposium with a keynote speaker, reaction discussion panel, and an audience of 450 attendees. The Symposium continues to grow in popularity with an expected audience of 600 for the 2018 event!


Dawn Wright presenting behind podiumWhat is the Esri Science Symposium?

The Science Symposium is held on Tuesday, July 10, 2018, from 4:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. in Ballroom 20D of the San Diego Convention Center. The keynote presentation will focus on critical environmental issues, while the reaction panel will include GIS experts talking of how the vision presented by the keynote speaker can be realized geospatially. Following the panel discussion is a Q&A and a discussion among the audience. The Symposium will conclude with a networking reception.


The purpose of the Symposium is to “broaden the tent" of participation at the UC beyond the traditional geographers, GI engineers and GIScientists who come to the UC, inviting those working in the domain sciences.

Domain sciences include: ocean science, hydrology, ecology, forestry, climate science, geology/geophysics, agricultural science, conservation biology, sustainability science and/or geodesign, health sciences, the social sciences

It also serves as a focal point for scientists at the UC who are normally scattered about as individuals and hidden in various sessions during the week.


How is the keynote speaker selected?

The keynote speaker is selected based on their relationship with Esri and the advancements that they are making in their field of science. Last year, Dr. Jon Foley, the Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences, spoke about the need for scientists to communicate more clearly about the societal importance of their work, particularly in the area of climate change.


This year the keynote speaker will be Dr. Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii. Dr. Mora will be presenting on his work with deadly heatwaves impacting the entire planet. His work (featured in media outlets such as CNN, Newsweek, Wired, the Washington Post, and the Huffington Post) has shown that 74% of the world’s population will be exposed to deadly heatwaves by the year 2100 if carbon gas emissions continue to rise at current rates. Even if emissions are aggressively reduced, the percent of the world’s human population affected is expected to reach 48% by that same year.


Reaction panel sitting on stageHow is the reaction panel of experts chosen?

In addition to our keynote speaker, we are happy to welcome our five reaction panelists:


  • Tom Cova, University of Utah
  • Kellee Koenig, Conservation International
  • Mark Kumler, University of Redlands
  • Karen Kemp, University of Southern California
  • Amber Witner, United States Geological Survey


This year the reaction panel, consisting of a variety of GIS experts, will discuss how GIS can play a role in reversing this trend. Panelists are chosen based on their backgrounds, their prior work with Esri teams and Esri software, and their ability to speak to the issues that will be raised by the keynote speaker. The session will end with general questions and comments from the audience.


Crowd of people at 2017 Science SymposiumWho should attend?

The Symposium is open to everyone with interest in science and how GIS may be used to solve a variety of scientific problems that also have a great effect on society. The content is slightly geared towards professionals rather than researchers, but the conversation stems from those in the room, and all are welcome. Registration is free, and seating is limited.


(Please note: you must be registered for the Esri User Conference, or Education Summit @ Esri UC to attend this event)


Register Now>>


What makes the Science Symposium unique?

The Science Symposium is not a Technical Workshop or a User Presentation. Nor, is it a Special Interest Group meeting. It covers broad science issues such as Earth observation, sustainable development and climate change by prominent scientific experts, and provides a unique opportunity for UC attendees to interact directly in discussions with them. The speaker and panelists bring with them different perspectives and expertise that in turn help all attendees get a thorough understanding of the issue at hand. The Symposium is also more interactive than a traditional session, with inspiring moments coming from the speaker, and from the discussions with the reaction panel and the audience.


Tips from the Team:


  • Pace yourself. It's like going to Disneyland, if you try to do too much all at once you'll burn out
  • Ask anyone with a red lanyard for help; for anything; at any time
  • Pick up your badge before Monday morning
  • Bring a light wrap, pashmina or jacket that will fit into your bag
  • Stay involved after the symposium with the Sciences group


For Discussion:

For our GeoNet Scientists who have attended in the past, why have you attended previous Esri Science Symposiums?

We are starting the party this week with our User Conference SIGs and Socials! Last year we held 176 different meetings and socials during the conference, giving attendees plenty of opportunities to network with their peers.


What is a SIG?

SIG stands for Special Interest Group meeting. These meetings typically take place at lunchtime or in the evening during the conference, although there are a Woman and two men socializing in lobbyfew early birds that do breakfast meetings. The goal of these meetings is to connect with individuals in the same industry, with the same interests, or in the same area (known as Regional User Group meetings) to talk about relevant topics and trends in GIS.


How do we plan and schedule SIGs and Socials?

Each of these meetings is requested through our Meeting Request System and reviewed by a special team. The reviewing team looks at each request to make sure the meeting will be beneficial to attendees and that we will be able to accommodate the time and number of people attending in our open conference rooms. Once the request is approved, it is scheduled. We schedule the meetings on a first-come-first-served basis and try our best to place them in rooms near related User Presentations and Technical Workshops.


What kinds of SIGs are happening this year?

Currently, we have 157 scheduled SIGs and Socials. They vary in topic from Airports to Augmented Reality, from Telecommunications to Trails, and everything in between. (There’s also two GeoNet meetups!)


You can see the full schedule of SIGs and Socials in our Agenda.


Man pointing at camera at a partyWhy should I go?

SIGs and Socials are a great place to connect with your community. The presentations focus on exactly the applications of Esri software used by your group and go over the most important changes and trends that the industries are facing.


These events are also one of the best places to network at the conference. Be sure to bring your business cards. What better way to make valuable connections than to surround yourself with people that have shared interests?


Tips from the Team:


  • Bring a sweater
  • Make sure you keep your phone and charging cables with you. We’ll have charging stations around the convention center to plug in
  • Drink water! There are water coolers in most session rooms to fill up your bottles
  • Are you a foodie? Check out this story map of places to eat in San Diego.
  • Be aware there are cash limitations. Bring a credit/debit card.

For Discussion:

How do you find the balance between work and play at the User Conference? What are your best networking tips?

This week we are going to talk about the 247,388 square-foot, 500+ computer Expo. I met with Esri’s area manager for ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World, Sean Breyer, who has the unique perspective of attending the User Conference as both an attendee and as an Esri staff.


What is the Expo?

The Expo is located in Halls A-C on the first floor of the convention center where Esri experts are excited to answer questions about our products. You can also find the Esri partners showcasing the great things they are doing in GIS.


What does Esri do to prepare?

First, each Area Manager needs to determine the layout of their area. The Living Atlas area went through eight redesigns to optimize their space for noise, walkability and easy access for attendees. Once the floorplan is determined, staff need to be selected and scheduled. Sean tries his best to make sure there will always be someone scheduled in the area whom can answer every question, which was something that was important to him when he was an attendee of the conference.

OPS Center Demo Theater PresentationBefore the conference, he gathers with his team to review responses to both common and difficult questions, allowing them to dive deeper into their areas of expertise. They practice until everyone on the team is comfortable explaining each map/app/layer, and can customize their answers to meet the needs of their practice clients.

Apart from each area, there are also the Expo Spotlight talks. These talks are short discussions on a specific subject that will also point you in the direction of other resources at the conference about that topic. Sean’s spotlight talk will focus on common challenges faced when starting your first Esri Story Map, and he will share tips and tricks for newly released software.


“I think there is a different mindset when you attend the User Conference as an Esri staff member vs. a user. For the Esri staff, it is a place to share your hard work, and listen to the users bring their new ideas into the mix. For the users, you just get so much information thrown at you with no breaks. But I think in both cases you are pretty much exhausted by Wednesday afternoon.”


-Sean Breyer, ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World, Program Manager


Why should I go to the Expo?

The Expo is a great place to see the innovation that is happening in the world of GIS. It is where you go to see the products and partners that are doing incredible things in GIS. Most importantly, the Expo is where you go to make connections.


People socializing in Expo areaEsri is a “company of relationships” according to Sean. We value the relationships and conversations that we have with our users, and we are constantly looking to improve the platform usability and help our users innovate new spatial workflows in their work. It is not very often that you will have access to the people who are directly building the technology and developing the code that you are using, but the Expo floor is the place to do that.


For Esri staff, the Expo is the place to find new ways customers are using Esri products. Often conversations with users show us new use cases.


Be sure to check out the Living Atlas area and Demo Theater presentations located in the Esri Expo.

Tips from the Team:


  • Go to SIGs. They will go over topics that directly relate to your work, and often give you insights into what other sessions you should attend during the week.
  • Spend lots of time visiting the partner booths to learn about new ways to use Esri software.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You will walk a lot.
  • If you have very specific questions, get to the floor early, then you can follow up later in the week to answer additional questions.
  • Use the Discovery Tags to get extra information.
  • Go to the Map Gallery. There are many big agencies there, students and small organizations that could lead to your next big project.

For Discussion:

With so much information and so many things to learn, how do you fit time for the Expo into your schedule?

Each year Esri invites both Esri staff and users to share their expertise and inspire others with their work in GIS. This year we will have more than 1,900 presenters at the User Conference. All the presenters are beginning to prepare for their part at UC in their own unique way, so I decided to ask one of our most experienced presenters, Derek Law to share his insights with us.





Derek Law presenting on a stageQ: How long have you been a presenter for Esri’s conferences?

Derek: I’ve been a presenter for 17 years. I’ve presented at the User Conference, Federal User Conference, Esri Partner Conference, Developer Summit, Petroleum GIS Conference, Health and Human Services Conference and some international conferences for both general audiences, and Esri Distributors.

Q: What has been your most memorable moment at an Esri conference?

Derek: This actually happened at last year’s conference. I was doing a demonstration with my smartphone, and I needed to switch to my computer. I put my phone down, and it popped up my lock screen. I didn’t know that it was still displaying, so everyone in the room saw my password. I made a joke about it at the time, but I remember asking KC and the video team afterward if they could cut that part out of the video. So embarrassing.

Q: What do you do to prepare for a presentation?

Derek: First, I make sure that I know my material and know my slides very well. Then, I practice. I try to find people that are experts in what I am presenting on and I sit down with them and go through the presentation to see if it makes sense to them.

Also, if I can, I try to find someone that would be in the audience and practice on them to make sure that I am explaining things well, and that they understand what is going on.

A lot of the time I present on pretty complicated topics. They aren’t intuitive, they don’t have exciting demos like a 3D flyover or displays, so I try to make them fun. I try to engage my audience in other ways and make it more of a conversation. Usually, I’ll start with an overview of a concept and then go into more details. Twenty minutes into the presentation I’ll ask an open-ended question and ask them to raise their hands to see if the audience is paying attention. I look at their faces, see how many people are raising their hands for the questions, make sure no one is sleeping. If they are not asking me questions then I know they are not engaged and I need to do something different.

Q: What advice can you give to our user presenters?

Derek: You can’t dump all of your material and information out all at once. You have to break it up into subjects, into digestible pieces. And you need to make it fun. If people aren’t having fun then they won’t walk away with much.
Also, remember that no one is perfect. If you make a mistake or something goes wrong make a joke of it and move on. Don’t try to lie if you don’t know the answer to something. Just tell them, “You know, I’m not too sure about that. But please see me later and we can follow up.”

I also recommend going to the Presenter Resource Center. I use it as a quiet space to work and update slides or practice the presentations. They also have people there that can help you with your presentation and give you feedback. If you can, also try to go into the room you’re presenting in beforehand to make sure you know the layout and get a feel for the room.

Close up image of Derek Law presenting against a blue backgroundQ: What is the biggest mistake people make either preparing for a presentation or during the presentation itself?

Derek: Too much content, not enough time. You have to practice it and talk it out loud to get a sense of the timing. One of the things I really hate is when I go into a presentation and I hear, “We have a lot to cover today, so we will not be taking any questions.” No, that’s the completely wrong way to approach it. That means you are going over way too much and you need to reduce the content.

Q: What kind of sessions do you like to go to?

Derek: I like to go to the sessions where users are explaining how they solved a problem with our software. Last year, I went to a session where people were using Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS. Normally, it is used in mapping applications, but this research group used it to help blind people. They would sit down with someone and say “Ok, you want to go from Point A to Point B,” and it would calculate the route to go there from a blind person’s perspective. So it would say, “You will go 20 feet forward, and then your stick will hit a curb, and then you’ll turn left until you feel the edge of this building” and I thought that was just so creative and such a great use of our software that I would have never thought of.


Q: Do you have any final thoughts?

Derek: I think this conference is great for anyone working in GIS. It will pump you up, and you just feel the energy as soon as you walk through the doors at the Plenary. You get this great snapshot of the GIS community and what's going on around the world. And, there are people there from across hundreds of different industries. Everyone should go at least once because you are going to meet someone just like you there. Whether you work for a one-person organization, a medium-sized or a large organization you will definitely find people like you at the conference to connect with and be inspired by them for your own job.





I want to give a huge “Thank You” to Derek for interviewing with me. Be sure to catch one of Derek’s presentations at this year’s conference.

Our user presenters can find more information on our Presenter Resources page here on GeoNet, and please be sure to check out the presenter resource center during the conference (I’ll see you there!).


Tips from Derek:


  • Go to the Thursday Night Party, but get your wristband early
  • List out three things you want to learn, look at the agenda, and get a rough idea of the sessions that will teach you those things
  • Look to see if things are offered more than once
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Bring a water bottle
  • If you have a list of questions to get answers to, go to the expo early. It gets really busy by Thursday morning
  • Get Esri employee business cards so you can follow up after the conference

For Discussion:

Now that you’ve heard the advice from one of our Esri presenters, what are your best presentation strategies?

We're getting ready for UC 2018 and we wanted to share information on the GeoNet events happening this year in San Diego. We invite you to attend these GeoNet community events and follow along virtually during the week. Check out the event details below and we look forward to seeing you at UC! 


Follow Esri User Conference 2018 on GeoNet

During UC 2018 we'll be live blogging the Plenary on Monday and be sharing daily updates throughout the week. You can follow along and join the conversation in the User Conference space.


GeoNet Expo Booth

What: Meet the GeoNet Team at the GeoNet Expo Booth. Ask questions, learn more about GeoNet, see what is new and upcoming, and share your feedback. 



Tuesday, July 10, 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m

Wednesday, July 11, 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Thursday, July 12, 9:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Where: SDCC - Expo Halls A, B, C - Life Long Learning Booth

GeoNet Map Gallery Meet-up

What: Meet the GeoNet Team and others from the GeoNet Community as we have an informal meet-up in the Map Gallery to connect, catch up and explore the map submissions together.


 NOTE: A more formal meet-up with a full agenda is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday (see GeoNet Community Meet-up below.)


When:  Monday, July 9, 4:00 - 6:30 p.m.

Where: Map Gallery in the Digital Map Area

GeoNet Community Meet-up

What: Connect with other GeoNet Community members and hear how (and why) more than 250,000 Esri Community members, like you, are working better, sharing ideas and finding valuable solutions on GeoNet. We'll also share more about the GeoNet Community strategy including roadmap updates, current metrics, feature tips, and inspiring user success stories. 


Add it to your schedule >> 



Where:  SDCC - Room 15 B

Note: to allow for your UC scheduling flexibility, the GeoNet meet-ups will be held on Tuesday (link to event) and Wednesday (link to event) featuring the same content on each day. Click the links above to read more info and RSVP.

GeoNet 101 session

New to GeoNet? Want to learn more tips and tricks and get more out of your GeoNet experience? We're hosting three GeoNet 101 hands-on and interactive sessions to welcome and support new members. Know a fellow Esri user who coming to UC 2018 and needs to join and get started GeoNet? Invite them to this session!


When: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. PST

Where: Marriott – Santa Rosa


Who is this 101 session for?

This hands-on and instructional session is for Esri users who have just learned about GeoNet and haven't joined yet or users who have just begun their journey and want to learn the basics of GeoNet.


Add it to your schedule >>


What to expect?

  • Hear the history of GeoNet and learn the basics of how to get started on GeoNet and so you can join the growing community of more than 250,000 Esri users and GIS professionals.
  • We'll also share success stories about how the Esri Community is using GeoNet to share ideas, ask questions, collaborate better and get help on their GIS projects.
  • This session is interactive so plan to get tips and hands-on instruction to begin your GeoNet journey at UC

GeoNet Community SIG at Ed UC

Are you an educator going to Ed UC? Be sure to visit the GeoNet Community SIG and discover how the GeoNet Education space can be a helpful resource. You’ll learn how you can expand your GIS knowledge, hear user success stories, ask questions and get answers, share your work, and connect with other Esri customers and partners in the education industry.


When:  Tuesday, July 10, 11:45-12:45 p.m.

Where: Marriott – La Costa


Add it to your schedule >>