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Tis the Season: Government Conference Season

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This week, Esri hosted our twentieth annual government-focused conference, FedGIS.  Nowadays, many vendors hold these federal user conferences, where customers across multiple federal agencies gather together, along with other partner vendors and agency folks, and share use cases, tips and tricks, trends for the coming year, and best practices.  Although we have been doing this event for twenty years, it never ceases to interest and invigorate me, and I know that both the government users who take the time to share their stories, and the other vendors in the government space, feel the same way.  It got me thinking – what are my top five reasons these industry-based government conferences are still so meaningful, impactful, and just fun to attend?

Top Five Reasons to Attend Government Conferences:

  1. Let the Work be the Star:  To be honest, to work in government is often to be an unsung hero.  We are not often thought to be bleeding edge when it comes to technology, and we get a bad rap by the perception of being antiquated, or dare I say, legacy.  Government shows let our users enjoy their moment in the sun.  Great work is being done at government agencies, but more often than not, the really innovative work being done by government users remains in the background.  It is always exciting to see these users get the recognition they deserve.
  2. The Me-Too Effect: Gather enough government users together in one space and it doesn’t take too long for shared growing pains to surface.  Users from one agency can go to a session, end up hearing a use case that deals with the EXACT pain point with which they are struggling, and bam! – a light bulb goes on.  It’s these synergistic moments that I really love at user conferences.  And, as an added bonus, the speaker at the session – you know, the one who just illuminated your way forward through a tough problem – they stick around after giving their sessions and always enjoy swapping tales and offering their perspective.  This type of collaboration and support is a huge bonus of attending a government show.
  3. The Groundswell Points the Way: As a vendor, it is awesome to be a fly on the wall, listening to what attendees are interested in or asking questions about.  It helps me to get a glimpse of the next wave, so to speak.  What are the solutions they are most intrigued by?  What are the problems that most perplex them?  Where are their bottlenecks or pain points?  These glimpses help vendors to get a view down the road – to see what is coming and to help set their course.  Being able to access users – the folks in the trenches – in one place and for an extended time, makes for great conversations and always helps me chart a direction for the year ahead.
  4. Change of Scenery: Don’t laugh, but I find there is great value in getting out of the office and spending a day, or in our case two, away from your desk and engaged in active participation with your peers.  There is always and excited buzz that surges through these user events, and I enjoy the energy.  I also believe that getting out of the office lends itself toward a feeling of it being a special occasion – because it is! – and that helps open everyone up to moving out of their comfort zone and supports an authentic experience.
  5. Food, Food, Fun Socializing, and Food: Totally serious. The food, drinks, and opportunity to socialize, hang out, and talk with your peers is a major benefit of any conference.  Bonus points when the food and drinks are top notch!  It is nice to be able to relax in a social way that also benefits your work, and the conversations and connections forged during the social exchanges at these conferences are always worth it to me.

So, there you have it – my top five reasons government conferences are a highlight of my year.  And, I didn’t even mention the swag!  As we head into prime government conference season, I hope you keep these benefits to attendance in mind and go enjoy these events that vendors work so hard to put together.  I guarantee you won’t regret it!

Christian Carlson is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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