This section contains short reflections from GIS professionals about their experiences using GIS software and tools and lessons learned from professional development experiences such as attending conferences, volunteering, or participating in a mentoring relationship.
Get the Most Out of Conferences. Heather Galindo, Compass Blogs - Confessions of a Conference Zombie, Oct 22, 2012.
Admit it. You’ve been in this situation at one time or another:
You arrive at a scientific conference focused on the minutia of your favorite scientific field or organism (e.g. fruit fly legs or microbial social dynamics) and simply cannot wait to soak in the science, hobnob with great minds, and enjoy free coffee. Suddenly, you find yourself weighted down by an enormous tote bag and a veritable tome of talk schedules and abstracts. After a few days, you are numb from racing between sessions, endless networking, and long hours wandering aimlessly among rows and rows of badly formatted posters. And when you finally arrive back home and your colleagues want to know who you’ve talked to and what you learned, you stare at them blankly and can’t seem to articulate even one or two of the coolest things you heard.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way! While none of us are completely immune to these symptoms, after many-a-stint in the land of the conference undead, here are a few ingredients (both my own and ideas I’ve collected from other scientists (in italics below)) for an anti-conference-zombie vaccine:
Arrive with a plan: Although a seemingly daunting task on top of struggling to put the finishing touches on your talk or poster, I cannot stress enough how useful it is to draft a hit list of the top sessions and people you absolutely want to see/meet. It’s even better if you can set up a handful of coffee or lunch meetings ahead of time. Another advantage of this approach is that you can compare lists with colleagues and collectively cover the most ground – this is our conference SOP here at COMPASS.
But not too much of a plan: As much as I love a good color-coded calendar, it’s essential to leave room for unexpected opportunities like following up with a speaker after a particularly inspiring talk or tagging along for lunch with newfound colleagues. Here are a few more suggestions for stepping outside your comfort zone:
Go out to dinner with (or at least talk to) a journalist. They generally don’t bite and it will push you to talk about your science in new ways.
Pick a session that’s not directly in your field but might be tangentially related …you’ll be amazed how much you learn. Talks in other fields are often the ones I remember the most vividly because they don’t get lost in a sea of my background knowledge.
Don’t assume that the most famous scientists will have the most ground-breaking talks; there are so many amazing early-career researchers who also excel at communicating their work.
Be in two (or more) places at once: I prefer to stay in whole sessions, rather than bounce around, but thanks to real-time input from social media, you can still get a sense of what’s going on in the other rooms. According to one colleague: “Twitter helps me to ‘attend’ more than one talk at a time; even if I don’t pay attention to the stream, I can look at it later.”
Liquid courage: Another way scientists often cope with conference overload?
Take time to debrief: After the conference is over, set aside the time to reflect on the most important take-home messages and follow up with new connections from the conference. I like to start these lists while at the conference and use them to focus my next steps. Rather than getting overwhelmed, pick your top five and go from there.
Most importantly, if at some point in the conference feelings of zombie-ness creep in, take a moment to appreciate that part of your job is to travel to gatherings to catch up with old friends and share new ideas. I promise that it works every time.
Prezi - My New Favorite Tool. By Rachel Kornak, GISP, August 16, 2011.
I recently discovered Prezi software. My verdict - I’ll never create another Power Point again. I’m pretty sure you won’t either if you give it a try. Read on to find out why.
What is Prezi?
Prezi.com describes it as “a cloud-based presentation software that opens up a new world between whiteboards and slides. The zoomable canvas makes it fun to explore ideas and the connections between them. The result: visually captivating presentations that lead your audience down a path of discovery.” I find it somewhat similar to the map-based presentation feature of ArcGIS Explorer Online in that you can zoom and pan within a virtual presentation space.
Getting started is quick and easy. You can sign up for a user account, log on to the free online software, and start on your first Prezi within a few minutes. There are tools to add photos, embed videos, add text and shapes, and customize the colors and fonts. After you are done adding content, you create snapshots of your storyboard and connect them together in a path. The path can be viewed later on in Show Mode (similar to the Power Point Presentation Mode).
My First Prezis
You can check out my first Prezis using the links below. I presented these at the 2011 Esri International User Conference. Many audience members ranted and raved about the positive Prezi experience in a sea of endless Power Points. Let's just say no one was sleeping...
Prezi allows you to organize your ideas on an expandable, scalable, blank canvas. Once you add an element you can scale it or rotate it later on. This makes it easy to get all of your ideas on paper and then improve the design as you move through the thought process.
You can really start to get creative in how you tell a story when you aren’t constrained by a linear pattern like in Power Point. I started by creating a story board of my main ideas and then drew lines showing how they connect to each other. This helped me arrange the layout of my graphics and text in a meaningful way.
Prezi isn’t set up to easily add lengthy text boxes. I love this feature because it makes you think of simple ways to communicate complex information. It’s easy to get lazy and type out tons of information in Power Point. We’ve all sat through the dreaded 65 slide presentation packed with text… I think it’s safe to say that no one enjoys this experience.
It’s simple to embed flash videos in your presentation that start automatically. Videos are a great visual aid to describe many ideas in one “slide.” My favorite program to create free screen videos is called Jing.
I really enjoy the ability to “interrupt” your predefined presentation path to zoom, pan, and rotate the canvas on-the-fly. This allows you to add content you may need just in case it comes up. If someone asks a question not covered in your main material you can zoom to your extra content. What a great opportunity to showcase how prepared you are! Another bonus - you don’t have to divert attention from your main ideas if unnecessary.
Visual Brainstorming. I like to visually lay out my thoughts when I’m coming up with a new idea or problem solving. Prezi makes it easy to create a virtual idea board with key words and graphics. It’s easy to access and add to your ideas as long as you have an internet connection. I also like to move my ideas around the storyboard in various configurations. This helps me generate new ideas and connections that I didn’t “see” initially.
Run Productive Meetings. Prezi.com allows you to give others editing access to your presentation. You can create a new Prezi and have your whole team keep meeting minutes together in one interactive, virtual space. Create boxes or circles with each participant's name or picture. Drag items into them that each person should follow up on at the end of the meeting.
Website & Logo Created and Designed by Rachel Kornak, GISP. Learn more at www.rachelkornak.com. Last Updated Feb. 18, 2013.