"The Science of Sessions" - Esri User Conference 2017 (San Diego)

14 July 2017

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Blog by Chris Morris, Interpret Group Manager

In my last post I suggested that the Exhibition hall was the heart of the conference, well the sessions are most definitely the brain.

Whether it's demo theatre presentations, technical workshops, Esri-led technical sessions, or moderated paper sessions, every subject and product is discussed and demonstrated. Sessions take place in the numerous conference rooms, from the huge rooms which seat 1000+ to the cosy breakout rooms that seat 50. In some cases, there are the right number of seats, in others it's standing room only. I can only imagine the logistical nightmare this event must take to organise.

The sheer number of sessions is a little overwhelming and it takes a degree in planning to be able to make the most of what is on offer. In previous conferences I found myself panicking that I wasn’t seeing enough and I would rush from one side of the conference venue to the other and back again attending everything and occasionally anything. This year I’m more relaxed. I’m targeting broad themes on transport rather than very specific topics and because of which I’m able to pick and choose sessions more easily.

My one big recommendation is to randomly walk into a session, any session, without having first looked at what the session was about. Why would you do such a thing when there is so much to see? Well because you can become so focused that you miss the little gems of information that you will only ever find out by accident. The conference is about learning but first you must open your mind to that learning.

The quality of the sessions is generally pretty high, especially if they are run by Esri. Occasionally highly technical staff are set free upon delegates, what they lack in personality they make up for in facts! Moderated papers are three 20 minute presentations by different users all loosely based on a single topic. Every so often you come across a moderated session where the individual presentation bears very little resemblance to the session topic and this can be a bit frustrating, but the general and accepted rule is that if the session isn’t want you expected don’t be polite and sit there, simply leave and head off to something else.

Today it was my turn to present about a project we undertook with New Zealand Police to identify locations suitable for safety cameras. I’ve presented a fair number of times during my career so I wasn’t particularly nervous about presenting here, but nevertheless you want to make sure you are prepared.  The presentation went well and there were some interesting questions afterwards.

The conference is almost over,  just a few final sessions tomorrow...it’s been a great week.