What to Expect With the Esri Virtual Conference

Caitlin Dempsey


For the first time since the inaugural Esri User Conference hosted 16 attendees in Redlands, California 39 years ago, the largest gathering of GIS professionals will go virtual this year.  Many geospatial conferences have shifted to online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  This year the Esri UC 2020 will be held from Monday, July 13 to Thursday, July 16, 2020 as a virtual conference.  

While it’s sad to have to forgo the in-person experience, hosting the event online has opened up the Esri UC to many more global attendees.   San Diego event typically draws 18,000 attendees from around the world while the virtual event has almost 70,000 registered for it.  This year’s Plenary Session is being offered for free to all registered attendees and full conference access to all Esri customers maintaining a current maintenance or subscription plan.  

Familiarize Yourself with the Virtual Platform

Now is the time to make sure your computer set-up and internet access are in order.  Check out the tech specs for participating in the virtual conference in the Esri UC 2020 guide.  Also make sure you have your Esri account credentials and password in order so you can log in when the conference opens on Monday.  

Since the format is new to all attendees, both first-time and conference veterans, Esri has prepared a host of orientation guides to familiarize conference goers with the virtual experience.  A good starting place is the roughly 7.5 minute long ‘How to Navigate the Esri UC 2020” video.  The video takes attendees through a tour of the difference components of the conference.  

The annual Esri UC Q&A serves as a reference point for questions about the conference and the direction of Esri in general.  There is also a conference FAQ for more detailed questions about the virtual conference. For an overview of the offerings and conference schedule, take some time to read over the Esri UC 2020 guide.

Pre-plan Your Schedule

As with the in-person conference, the virtual UC is packed with content offerings.  It can be easy to feel overwhelmed, so your best strategy is to take some time before the conference starts to look over the offerings via the agenda.   Set up your own personal schedule of which sessions you want to attend.  With three live plenary sessions, 160 live technical sessions, lots of in-demand content, UC Central Live (a hosted curated TV-style conference experience shown multiple times each day), special interest group sessions, over 1,500 maps in the Map Gallery, a virtual vendor hall, Esri Showcase kiosks, and peer networking opportunities, there is a lot to choose from and schedule.  There is even a virtual run planned: users can log their run/walk routes and photos to be added to Esri’s event map.  

With the virtual conference, the first three days of the four-day conference will feature a plenary session.   Starting at 10am PST each day, the plenary session will livestream for two hours on Monday (GIS Interconnecting Our World) and for one hour each on Tuesday (ArcGIS Technology and Applications) and Wednesday (Making Geographic Knowledge Pervasive).  Thursday is dedicated to over forty Special Interest Group (SIG) meetings.  

Esri is also launching, for the first time, an online merchandise store where users can buy Esri t-shirts and other products.  This online store will be available year-round.  

Lastly, conference attendees get access to a digital swag bag where they can download the 35th Annual Esri Map Book, and access other digital goodies such as coloring pages featuring various geo related characters, screensavers, backdrops, and wallpapers.

Visit the Esri UC page to learn more about registering and what’s being offered: esri.com/uc 

2020 Esri User Conference
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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

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