As the conference continues to grow, so does the demand for quick and close lunch options. In addition to a variety of restaurants in the immediate area, this year we’ve added more choices that are close, quick, and reasonably priced all within minutes from the conference.
San Diego has an amazing variety of dining options. Visit the concierge desk in the convention center, located on the ground floor between Halls B and C. These local experts have wonderful insights on local places to visit and where to eat in San Diego. You can also go to the concierge to learn where you can get discounts with your conference badge.
Check out our Some Places to Eat in San Diego, Californiastory map for more great places to eat.
Tips from the Team:
Get to the convention center early to orient yourself
Wear comfortable shoes
Utilize the info booths (both Esri booths and the Convention Center booths)
Keep track of how many steps you take each day (you will be surprised!)
Where do you get great food during the conference or when visiting San Diego?
The Kids Fair is a set of stations, and hands-on activities focused on educating children ages 5-15 about GIS. Each station is designed with age appropriate activities that meet California K-12 educational guidelines.
The Kids Fair started as a way to introduce the children of attendees to GIS. Initially, it was given as a series of classes as defined by age groups. Over the years the fair has developed into a multi-day event where families can come and go as they please.
Each year stations and activities are designed with a theme. Past years’ themes include Weather and The Seven Wonders of the World. This year the theme will be Biomes! Station activities include matching animals with their habitats for younger kids or a buoyancy experiment for older kids. Children can work through each station at their own pace to collect stickers for their passport. Once they have completed all stations, they will receive a special prize!
Kids Fair Details
Located at the Marriott Marquis & Marina Hotel in Marina Ballroom Salon D Days and times:
Tuesday, July 10, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday, July 11, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Thursday, July 12, 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Some things to note:
No registration is required, though it does tend to be busy around lunchtime
A parent or guardian must accompany children at all times
Expect to spend about 1-2 hours at the fair
This year Family Night will be held on Wednesday, July 11 from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. in the UC Expo. It is an excellent opportunity to show your family what goes on in the UC Expo and teach them about the cool applications of GIS. Exhibitors will have fun activities, demonstrations, and be giving away special prizes for the families to enjoy. Family Night is open to anyone accompanied by a registered UC attendee.
Map Gallery and Evening Reception
The Map Gallery and Evening Reception begins immediately after the Plenary Session concludes. Mingle with other attendees and look at the wonderful projects submitted this year.
Map Gallery Opening and Evening Reception Hours
Monday, July 9 3:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Registered attendees may bring their families or guests during Monday’s reception. Family and friends will not have access to the Map Gallery for the remainder of the conference.
The Thursday Night Party is an evening filled with fun activities, entertainment, and tons of food! Apart from the musicians, performers, and countless food stations around the park, each year Esri reserves seven museums in Balboa Park for UC attendees to visit. Be sure to check them out.
Fleet Science Center
Mingei International Museum
Model Railroad Museum
Museum of Photographic Arts
San Diego History Center
San Diego Museum of Art
San Diego Natural History Museum
One of the most kid-friendly museums is the Fleet Science Center. This year, they will have a MythBusters Exhibit!
Attendees can pick up wristbands at the Activities Desk or Info Booth in the SDCC Grand Lobby between 7:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Wednesday – Thursday.
Conference badges are required to pick up wristbands.
Thursday Night Party tickets are $50 per person for guests or those that do not qualify with their UC registration. These can be purchased at the Activities Desk.
Children 12 and under are free.
PLEASE NOTE: Expo-Only or Student One-Day Registrations do not include the Thursday Night Party.
Round-trip shuttle transportation is available from the San Diego Convention Center, to and from the party at Balboa Park.
Attendees look forward to the Thursday Night Party year after year. In fact, last year there were over 12,000 people!
The Esri 5k Fun Run/Walk is a great opportunity to get some fresh air and take in the beautiful scenery of the San Diego waterfront before sessions start for the day. You can take this event as seriously as you would like to (I would be on the walking end of the spectrum) and families are welcome to join in!
The fun will begin on Wednesday, July 11, at 6:30 a.m. at the Hilton Bayfront – Embarcadero Boardwalk. Registration for this event is required. There is a $25 early-bird registration fee (Deadline July 5) or a $35 onsite registration fee.
For the early birds out there, Esri will be hosting morning yoga sessions on Tuesday, July 10 and Thursday, July 12 from 6:30 a.m. – 7:30 a.m. This event is open to families. We would recommend registering early as this event does sell out every year. Each participant will also receive a yoga mat to take home after the conference.
Esri has teamed up with Petco Park to offer our UC attendees discounted tickets to see the San Diego Padres play against the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 9-12, and the Chicago Cubs on July 13-15th.
The GIS Managers’ Open Summit (GISMOS) is an all-day interactive experience followed by the new GIS Managers track with eight sessions on Wednesday and Thursday of the User Conference. The summit focuses on showing people with a GIS background how to be successful as leaders. Adam Carnow the Community Evangelist, explains the summit aims to “turn managers into leaders.”
The summit began in 2010 at the User Conference with a meet-up of 30 people and the Managers in GIS LinkedIn group. Since then, GISMOS has grown to include 180 attendees.
Who should be attending this summit?
Anyone that is a manager or a leader of a GIS team, and even future managers/leaders can attend the GISMOS. This could mean CIO’s, managers, IT leaders or anyone that wants to one day lead their team.
Registration is free, and seating is limited. You must be registered for the User Conference to attend this summit. Please click the link below to register.
Among the other GISMOS activities this year, we are going to have an Esri led presentation focusing on the executive and elected officials’ view of GIS, and three guest speakers. The seating will be designed to encourage activities and discussions between presentations.
I asked the GISMOS team what made these guest speakers standout, and they expressed that the presenters have a strong handle on the business-side of GIS. They show the power that GIS can have and how their GIS work has transformed their organizations. The GISMOS team hopes that the speakers will be able to inspire the attendees in their own work.
GISMOS is not just a day of inspirational presentations. The emphasis is also on networking and the interactions between participants.
The day starts off with an icebreaker. This is your opportunity to make many new connections.
Group discussions are held after each presentation using the Lean Coffee method for meetings. The group discussion helps further the understanding of the presentation topics. At the end of each discussion, attendees are asked to share the topics they discussed. Fortunately, this will be very simple when you already have your sticky notes ready!
Please see the attached agenda for more details!
Tips from the Team:
Bring business cards (especially if you are going to this event!)
This week we are talking about certification testing. Our certification program started in 2010 as a way for the Esri community to benchmark their ArcGIS skills. The program is open to Esri employees, distributors, partners, and customers worldwide. We started with only five exams and now offer nine different certifications, with certified individuals in 86 countries.
What is certification testing?
Certification testing is a benchmark to measure your proficiency with Esri GIS software. They typically last between 2-2.5 hours, with 80-95 multiple choice questions. Certification is a way to differentiate tech workers in the market, grow your professional resume, or reach a personal goal.
Why should I get certified?
It is a requirement for certain positions and highly valued by many companies. All of our Esri instructors must have them. Certification is a great way to grow within your organization, find a new position, increase your salary or develop your personal and professional skills.
Check out a recent survey about certifications and average salary.
How do I get certified?
Our certification team is excited to offer Certification testing at the Esri User Conference this year making it more convenient to take your exam. Testing will be offered Tuesday, July 10 – Thursday, July 12, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. in the Omni Hotel across the street from the San Diego Convention Center. You can find more information here.
Here’s a quick rundown of the process:
Select your exam. You can choose from nine (9) exams across three domains with three different skill levels. If you are unsure which exam is best for you, check out this post.
Prepare for the exam. There’s a post about that too!
Register for the exam.Registration is optional but highly recommended.
Pay for the exam. The cost of the exam is $225. You can pay when you arrive on site (click here for conference discount information).
Bring two forms of ID!
Tips from the Team:
Wear comfortable shoes
Bring a water bottle
Talk to 1000 people. Talk to presenters, talk to the person sitting next to you, talk to everyone you possibly can
Have an energy bar in your bag for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack
For our certified GeoNet members, what made you decide to get your certification? What advice do you have to prepare for the exam?
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!
What 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.
How 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.
Who 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.
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 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 few 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.
Why 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.
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.
Before 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.
Esri 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.
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.
Q: 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.
Q: 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.
Welcome to our first GeoNet Behind the Scenes blog for the 2018 Esri User Conference! Over the weeks leading up to User Conference, I will be giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the planning of the world’s largest GIS conference. And, hopefully, as I share these posts, you can get a better idea of what it takes to plan the conference, and how to make your User Conference experience as beneficial as possible.
This week we are going to share some fun facts about the UC Agenda! This year we have:
345 Technical Workshops
234 Demo Theater Presentations
192 User Presentations
57 Expo Spotlight Talks and
73 Special Interest Group Meetings (and counting)
That means there will be over 800 hours of unique content (not to mention the repeated sessions)
New This Year
We received some really great attendee feedback from last year’s post-conference survey about navigating the sessions. We made some improvements to this year’s agenda to make it easier to attend the sessions that you are interested in. First, we have lined up the schedules for our Technical Workshops, User Presentations, and Demo Theater Presentations, to avoid having people leave halfway through one session to try to catch another. There will be 30-minute breaks between sessions to give you plenty of time to make it across the convention center (though hopefully not that far) to your next session. We have also reserved the last time slot of the day (4:00 pm – 5:00 pm) for repeated technical workshops so you can be sure to fit those sessions into your busy schedules.
What went into all of this planning?
First, let’s talk about the User Presentations. We had our Call for Presentations back in the fall where users could submit their abstracts about the cool work they did with Esri software. We brought in our Esri experts with various industry backgrounds to review the nearly 900 submissions that we received. They made their selections and paired up abstracts based on subject, technology, and, industry to create sessions. Once they had this information, they passed it on to our team for scheduling.
Our Technical Workshops and Demo Theater Presentations came straight from our 32 Esri topic leads. They got together with their teams to decide which subjects would be most valuable for our attendees and which staff would be the best fit for the presentation. These sessions range from introductory level to advanced users, and from standard practices to newly released software.
Once we have all of the content for the sessions, we have to schedule them. We take each unique session, and all repeats of that session and write it on a sticky note. Then we place each sticky note on a grid of every available room and time slot for the entire convention center. We move the sticky notes around until we have the most logical arrangement of sessions. Imaging each session as a piece of a giant jigsaw puzzle with no guide picture.
All-in-all it takes our team about five months to create, review, and schedule our 1,102 total sessions. Once the pieces are in place; we have the agenda.
Tips from the Team:
Wear comfortable shoes
If you can, change shoes mid-day
Bring your own water bottle
Download the agenda app and favorite the sessions you plan to attend
Have a few backup sessions to attend
With so many sessions in the agenda to choose from, how do you go about planning for your User Conference schedule?