The Planner’s Guide to the 2024 Esri User Conference (2024)

We are a week away from the 2024 Esri User Conference in San Diego! This is always one of the most challenging and rewarding weeks as a staff member at Esri. I cannot remember a time when I have left this conference and not been inspired about the work that is being done by our users.

2024 UC Attendance

This year, with a 7% increase in attendance, we’re likely to exceed 21,000 total in-person attendees. As the Director of Planning and Community Development Markets at Esri, this is the stat that gives me the biggest smile: Over 1,000 attendees identify their field as planning, housing, or economic development…and that number grows every year. The role of GIS in planning and community development continues to accelerate at a rapid rate, not just in terms of overall users, but in scope of use in daily tasks and projects. From updating comprehensive plans, to providing a more transparent planning department, to site selection, to modernizing housing policy and zoning ordinances, our users have grown GIS into nothing short of a mission-critical application in the offices of planning, housing, and economic development departments across the world.

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Here’s Your UC Checklist

Every year, between 33% and 40% of our UC attendees are first-time attendees. This year is no exception. There is no doubt that a conference of this size can be overwhelming, so here are some things to make sure you take care of before arriving in San Diego.

  • Download the Esri Events app! This is a must-have, since it’s the easiest way to find the agenda, maps, and session surveys.
  • Along those lines, plan your agenda ahead of time. In the app, you can identify favorites and lay out a schedule. You will be overwhelmed trying to do this first thing Tuesday morning, and we don’t want you to miss a session that’s important to you. Keep in mind that many of the technical and product presentations from Esri staff will have multiple session offerings, so pick the one that’s most convenient for you.
  • I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Hey Keith, that agenda talk is great, but is there an agenda that’s already laid out for someone in the field of planning and community development?” Today is your lucky day –
  • Three words: Wear! Comfortable! Shoes! I know you may have just the most amazing pair of shoes you want everyone to see…but if you wouldn’t normally walk several miles in those shoes every day, leave them at home. The San Diego Convention Center is enormous. On an average day at the UC, I will walk between 7 and 10 miles. Plan accordingly.
  • Join me in Demo Theater 14 on Wednesday at 10:00 for my annual overview of the planning and community development industry. I’ll discuss the trends we’re seeing and addressing and how some of our users are tackling these challenges.
  • Our Planning and Community Development SIG (Special Interest Group) meeting is Wednesday at 11:30 in Room 4. This will be an opportunity to meet with other like-minded professionals to discuss ongoing projects and ideas. Don’t miss this!
  • The State and Local Government Social will be on Wednesday from 6:00 to 9:00 on the Hilton Bayfront Lawn. Free food, music, and frivolity with a couple thousand of your closest friends.
  • The Esri Expo is open Tuesday through Thursday only. If you’ve never been, there is more here than you can imagine. We have a State and Local Government Showcase and the Community Development Island adjacent to it near the front. There will also be Esri partners, demo theaters, product teams, industry teams, technical support, and more. Technical and user sessions are important, but please make sure you block off at least 2-3 hours to spend time here. You’ll thank me later. We have many, many attendees that spend 80-90% of their time at the UC in the Expo.
  • I mentioned the State and Local Government Showcase. We’re doing some new things in this area this year. Check out this StoryMap to see the new opportunities, including a place to share your success stories (which you should absolutely do), attend an Ask Me Anything or a How-To session, and more.
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Your Success is Our Goal

The Esri UC is exactly what the name says…for our users. Our goal is to make sure that our users get the answers, the tools, and the plan in place to be successful in their current and future projects with GIS. If you’re not sure how to make that happen, reach out to your Esri account team or to me directly at We’ll work with you to make sure you get what you need from the 2024 Esri UC. Looking forward to seeing you come by the Community Development Island in the Expo and at some of the sessions listed above.

See you in San Diego!

About the author

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Keith Cooke

Keith Cooke is the Director of Planning & Community Development Markets at Esri. A graduate of Auburn University, he has been a GIS professional since 1994 and has worked for planning and community development agencies at the regional and municipal level. Prior to this role, he was an account executive at Esri for 15 years working with over 100 local governments. He is a frequent speaker at GIS, community planning, and economic development events and is an active member in the American Planning Association, where he has conducted nearly 100 hands-on GIS workshops for planners since 2004 at the National Planning Conference and state chapter conferences.


Related Content:

  • community development
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  • planning
  • urban planning
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