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GITA 2007: Despite Growth in Several Categories, GITA Works to Identify and Address Decline in Overall Annual Conference Attendance

March 23, 2007
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Aurora, Colo.-The Geospatial Information & Technology Association’s (GITA) Annual Conference 30, held at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas, March 4-7, 2007, featured an expanded program that resulted in an increase of 14% in seminar registrations and a 10% increase in first-time attendees.

Aurora, Colo., March 21, 2007-The Geospatial Information & Technology Association’s (GITA) Annual Conference 30, held at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas, March 4-7, 2007, featured an expanded program that resulted in an increase of 14% in seminar registrations and a 10% increase in first-time attendees. A total of 1,520 attendees participated in this year's event (down from 1,855 in 2006). GITA realizes the decline and has already begun reinventing the 2008 Annual Conference to be more consistent with the changing geospatial industry.

Of the overall decrease of 335 people, 202 were exhibitor booth personnel. While GITA certainly values the participation at the conference of its exhibitor personnel, this decrease is attributable to vendors bringing smaller sales contingents to the conference and a corresponding reduction in booth size on the part of some vendors. The increase in consolidations/acquisitions has also led to fewer vendor exhibits. A Plan for the Future

The actual number of conference attendees was 966, and did not include exhibitor booth personnel, guests, or other miscellaneous categories. This figure compares with 1,040 from 2006, a decrease of 74. These figures do include “VIP exhibit-only ” guest passes. The decrease in this category accounted for 48 of these 74 people. GITA is mindful of these decreases and committed to expanding and improving efforts to provide exhibitors and conference attendees with the best, most beneficial event possible next year in Seattle-especially in light of plans to co-locate conferences and exhibit floors with the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping.

“The industry is changing, and GITA is absolutely devoted to taking on the challenge of addressing these changes on behalf of our members and constituents to accommodate all of the exciting shifts in geospatial technology,” said Bob Samborski, GITA executive director. “We know we have work to do and we will be actively seeking the input of our exhibitors and conference attendees to help make this happen.”

To that end, GITA has initiated an extensive plan to revamp the 2008 event. Included in that plan is research to gauge exhibitor expectations, and a detailed survey of attendees’ reactions to this year’s educational content. GITA staff and members of the Board of Directors plan to meet with Seattle area GIS, utility, public sector, transportation, emergency response, co-op, health care, and other organizations, in May of 2007 to build a ‘circle of champions’ for developing a top-notch, relevant educational program, and spreading the word about the conference locally and regionally.

Expanding and Diversifying Program Content

GITA’s Annual Conference Committee will continue expanding program content and relevance. The increase from nine to 14 half-day seminars in San Antonio sparked a jump in seminar attendance, and the conference’s educational program included 99 paper presentations-up from 71 in 2006.

Attendees noticed the broad spectrum of topics covered by the sessions and the increase in Web applications content. MapQuest, Microsoft, and Yahoo! participated in sessions, seminars, and panels for the first time ever. Attendee feedback was highly positive.

Jeffrey Poplin of Dewberry hadn’t been to a GITA show in 10 years and said he was impressed with educational content. “I’m catching up on a lot of the latest technology with Google, the mashup technology, and enterprise architecture. It’s been nice mix of sessions covering Web-based technology and enterprise and how that’s all going to tie together in the future,” Poplin said.

“I went to a number of presentations this morning, and I thought they were very good-quite a broad spectrum of interests. Web and mobile were my two biggest interests, and I was quite impressed with the quality of the speakers,” said Pat Drinnan, FortisAlberta.

Tammy Nguyen, Natural Resources Canada, said, “GITA does a great job in picking top-notch speakers, and the different topics are really exciting this year-they’re all really good.”

Four panel discussions addressed topics of growing interest to the geospatial industry as a whole: hot topics in the industry from the viewpoint of seven associations; interoperability; and the future of geospatial technology from the perspective of nontraditional Web services companies and traditional geospatial vendors.

The conference’s Opening Session featured a keynote from Howard Rheingold, the founding executive editor of HotWired, as well as opening remarks by GITA Executive Director Bob Samborski; Conference Chair Mary Ann Stewart of Mary Ann Stewart Engineering, LLC; and GITA President Brent Jones of ESRI. “The opening session was really great. I wish I’d either recorded it or taken notes on it-it was impressive,” said “Paul” Laurence Greenlee of Delaware Electric Co-op.

Celebrating GITA’s New Web site

GITA launched a new Web site on Dec. 12, 2006-exactly 12 weeks before its Annual Conference 30-and created a giveaway promotion called “12 Weeks to Annual Conference.” Each week GITA drew a winner of a $50 gift certificate to various companies. The grand prize winner, Mehrdod Mohseni, Enspiria Solutions, Inc., received $250.

"I’m honored and very excited to win GITA’s '12 Weeks to Annual Conference Giveaways' grand prize. I want to thank the Geospatial Information & Technology Association for the opportunity to participate in this giveaway and for their generous grand prize. Over the years, GITA has helped me to stay actively involved in the geospatial community, while keeping up with the ever-changing industry issues and trends," Mohseni said.

High Quality Traffic on the Exhibit Floor

A total of 84 vendors showcased the latest in geospatial products and services on the exhibit floor. Representatives from first-time exhibiting company Automated Information Management said their time on the show floor went very well. “This is one of the best shows we’ve been to. We’ve only been here for four hours, and we’ve had so many people come by the booth that want our product-we could go home now. We’ll be here next year,” John Edgerton, Automated Information Management, said.

"The show has just been fantastic. There’s an unbelievable quality of customers,” added Terry Edgerton. Karen Smith from long-time exhibiting company Infotech Enterprises America, Inc. said her experience at Annual Conference 30 was much better than previous conferences. “We’ve had the best, qualified prospects in several years, ” Smith said.

Many exhibitors saw GITA’s show as an opportunity to market new products and services to the geospatial industry. “The show is going very well. This is the first show for us introducing our GIS Web services offering to the utility as well as the GIS crowd-our first year doing GITA. We’re very pleased with the response we’ve received,” said Christian Solomine, Weatherbug Professional.

Following the conclusion of GITA’s Annual Conference, Oracle Spatial and Ten Sails Smallworld Consulting/Ubisense-conducted their own respective user conferences at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center on Thursday, March 8. Both reported strong attendance.

Plans for Annual Conference 31

The Call for Papers deadline for GITA’s Annual Conference 31 is July 6, 2007, and the conference is set for March 9-12, 2008, in Seattle, Washington. GITA plans to co-locate its conference with the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping’s Annual Conference. More details will be available soon at gita.org/seattle.

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