Why Attending the ESRI User Conference is Valuable to Me

Today I am travelling to San Diego to attend the ESRI User Conference. In these difficult economic times, I have thought long and hard about the investment we are making to send six people to the UC this year. In the final analysis, I am more convinced than ever that this is a worthwhile investment. Here's why:

PenBay Team at the ESRI User Conference PenBay Team at the ESRI User Conference

  1. Market to a global audience. Last year nearly 15,000 people attended the ESRI User Conference from over 100 countries. I would expect that attendance will be down somewhat this year, but still it will be the single largest single congregation of GIS users in the world this year. No where else will we have the opportunity to present our marketing message to such an audience.

  2. Reinforce relationships with clients. Many of our current and past customers attend the User Conference. The UC presents a chance to meet with a large number of customers in a short period of time in an environment that encourages both of us to think about future business.

  3. Reinforce relationships with partners. A large percentage of our business is done in conjunction with partners. Again, most of these partners will attend the UC and we will have the chance to reinforce our personal and business relationships with them in the coming week.

  4. Learn about upcoming technology changes.  The impending release of ArcGIS 9.4 will be a very significant release for ESRI.  There will be a number of important new features (like 3D geometries in the geodatabase) that are very important to our future business.  It is very important that we get a clear look at the future as early as possible so that we can shape our own product and service development plans in response to ESRI's roadmap.  Often the Business Partner Conference offers this kind of look ahead, but this year the software development cycles did not align as well as we might have hoped with the conference schedule.  The UC will provide us with an important look ahead at 9.4 and hopefully beyond.

  5. Reinforce our relationship with ESRI staff.  No question about it, our relationship with ESRI is our most important business relationship.  We have relationships with most of the ESRI Regional Offices and several of the international distributors as well.  I maintain personal friendships with lots of ESRI employees (and past employees) from all over the country.  The User Conference offers the opportunity to refresh many of these relationships in a very concentrated space and time slice.

  6. Get my Jack fix. This may be a personal thing, but I consider Jack to be the most visionary and compelling CEO in the technology industry today.  In the personal and professional choices that they have made, Jack and Laura demonstrate an amazing level of commitment to a global environmental ethic.  Jack's communication of this commitment is personal, authentic, compelling and inspiring to me.  I come away from one of Jack's presentation with a renewed sense that the work I do IS important and that collectively we CAN make a difference in the world.  Monday of the User Conference is always a day of personal renewal for me.  (Then on Tuesday I get completely overwhelmed by all the incredibly bright and capable people around the world doing awesome things with GIS and feel like I will never be able to keep up with such an amazing community.)

So...  at the end of the day, we get an amazing amount of value for our investment of sending staff to the ESRI User Conference.  It is important to remember that this is a marketing event and not a sales event.  The number of sales closed on the trade show floor is absolutely the wrong metric to use in measuring the effectiveness of this investment.  When the UC is over, I will post again and try to describe some metrics that I think might be better measures of effectiveness.

If you are attending the UC yourself, I hope you will stop by our booth for a chat.  Creating new relationships is as important as renewing old friendships so I would love to hear your story and the reasons why YOU have come to San Diego.