Full disclosure: The first time I ever heard the phrase “user conference” uttered, I shuddered a little. Without knowing any better, I had visions of a snooty insiders-only event, essentially closed off to other market stakeholders, and certainly to the grunts and other members of the great unwashed to whom I have forever associated.

Perhaps it was my background with the pull-the-doors-wide-open world of construction equipment trade shows, dealer open houses and hardscrabble machinery auctions, but I just couldn’t imagine actual dirt-kickers filing into a “user conference.”

Then, in 2010, I went to Trimble Dimensions in Las Vegas … and was blown away. There were hundreds of sessions over multiple days and numerous educational tracks, each filled with engaged, enthusiastic professionals eager to learn more about the work that awaits them. This particular user conference has become as close to a must-attend as any single-company-owned event can be. Jumping ahead, I was absolutely thrilled to have the late opportunity to attend the record-breaking 2014 version of Dimensions, held Nov. 3-5 in Las Vegas. To the hundreds of educational sessions, add an outdoor demo site and a vibrant, trade-showesque “partner pavilion” filled with booths of suppliers and other supporting companies and, well, Trimble Dimensions is anything but a closed-door display of backslapping. It is a true professional development event.

During the keynote address to open Trimble Dimensions 2014, former Blue Angels “Boss” Greg Wooldridge shared inspiring insights into the trust and teamwork required by members of the world’s most prestigious show flying squad. “As the season went along, we would get closer together and lower to the ground,” said Wooldridge, who holds the distinction of being a three-time commander of the Blue Angels. His speech at Dimensions included incredible footage of the pilots at work, both during “showtime” and behind the scenes. Most telling were the private debriefing meetings held by the team after every event. The Blue Angels would each candidly and critically speak of their own performances and how they needed to improve next time out for the betterment of the team, neither apologizing nor seeking sympathy, but rather stating, simply and strongly, “I’ll fix it.” Man, talk about good insider’s stuff there! That’s the real deal. “That,” explained Wooldridge, “leaves the rest of us with the feeling that you’ve recognized your mistake and you’re going to take corrective action to not let it happen again. So, it doesn’t drop our confidence level in any other person in the formation.”

Another saying employed dutifully by the Blue Angels, “Glad to be here,” certainly applies to Trimble Dimensions. Missing this event truly means missing out. Arguably having already outgrown its home at The Mirage Event Center prior to 2014, Trimble officials announced at the end of this year’s event that, come next time around in 2016, Dimensions will indeed relocate to the other side of the Las Vegas Strip. The Venetian, here we come. Admittedly, those are pretty nice digs for the great unwashed.

But there I go again making assumptions. I’ll fix it.

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