What to Expect at a NACIS Meeting

NACIS conferences begin with Practical Cartography Day (PCD) on Wednesday. The main conference starts on Wednesday evening with a keynote speaker and the poster session. Presentations, panels, and other sessions start Thursday morning. These and other various activities continue throughout the day Thursday and Friday. The conference formally concludes Friday evening with a banquet. Workshops and field trips are held on Saturday. The full NACIS schedule is outlined below according to the different conference days.

Whether you’re new to NACIS or just want to brush up, here’s a handy overview of what to expect when you’re attending our yearly gathering.

General Overview

  • Attendees at NACIS come from all corners of the map-loving community: academics, freelancers, government employees, librarians, web developers, and more. There are a wide variety of interests and perspectives represented, so you won’t have to go far to find someone who shares your passions.
  • The atmosphere is friendly and casual. Many of our members are just as interested in the breaks between presentation sessions as they are in the sessions themselves: it’s a chance to socialize, meet new people, and reconnect with friends.
  • We’re serious about everyone having an enjoyable time in a respectful atmosphere. Please review our Code of Conduct which provides guidelines for appropriate behavior at our meeting.
  • As many of our members say, “NACIS is Nicest!” — our attendees tend to be friendly and easy to talk to. Do not be shy about introducing yourself to anyone you’re interested in meeting.
  • Beginners are welcome! Attendees are usually excited to share their knowledge with anyone who wants to learn something new, especially students. We welcome and encourage people of all skill levels to join us.
  • Most attendees dress casually or in business casual, though some of our members like to use the occasion to dress up a little fancier.
  • Some food is provided. Typically, coffee and snacks are available in the mornings. Other meals are listed in the day-by-day guide below, which notes if the meal is included in registration or on your own.
  • If you have any questions while at the meeting, stop by the registration desk, or ask a member of the NACIS leadership. They’ve got ribbons on their name tags indicating they’re a Board Member or Director. They’re here to help you!


  • Many people start arriving on Tuesday, and often hang out in the hotel lobby or bar as they get in, hoping to locate fellow attendees and strike up a conversation. The registration table is open and will be located in the Foyer near the conference sessions.  Check out the online program for the details of an informal Tuesday night meetup to go and find dinner with other NACIS attendees.


  • Wednesday starts out with Practical Cartography Day (or “PCD”), an optional all-day event that requires separate registration from the main conference. PCD topics present tips, tricks, techniques, and advice on the day-to-day work of mapmaking.
  • The Main Conference formally begins on Wednesday evening after dinner, starting with a special guest speaker.
  • After the speaker, there’s a reception in the Map Gallery, where students and professionals hang up their latest creations. You and your fellow attendees vote on the winner of the Student Map and Poster Competition.
  • Food:
    • Snacks and coffee are available in the morning for PCD attendees.
    • Lunch is provided for those who have registered for PCD.
    • Dinner is on your own.
    • Snacks and a cash bar are available at the Map Gallery reception.


  • There are typically four sessions during the day: two before lunch and two after, with short breaks between. There are multiple tracks running concurrently, so you’ll have to choose what you most want to see.
  • Most sessions feature several presentations, each about 15–20 minutes, including questions from the audience at the end. There are also panel sessions, group discussions, and other formats for engagement.
    • You don’t need to stay for the entire session if you want to skip between talks in different rooms.
    • Presentations cover a wide variety of topics, reflecting the varied interests of our members. History, librarianship, techniques, data sources, research, and more may be present. See the online program for details about this year’s topics.
    • Attendance at sessions is not mandatory. If you’re feeling overloaded, or just caught up in a good conversation, you can pace yourself by taking a break from the presentations.
  • At lunch time, the NACIS Annual Business Meeting is held. Everyone at the conference is encouraged to attend. This is a chance to learn about what the Society is doing and to influence its policies. Votes on Society business are sometimes held. This is also a time where members share announcements of interest to the whole group.
  • There is an optional Fun Run/Walk between the last session of the day and NACIS Night Out. It’s a great way to get some exercise and explore the city before going out to eat.
  • NACIS Night Out follows the afternoon sessions, and requires separate registration. Attendees will head over to a nearby restaurant and enjoy an evening of food, drinks, and socializing.
  • Food:
    • Snacks and coffee are available in the morning.
    • Lunch is provided at the Annual Business Meeting.
    • Food and drinks are available at NACIS Night Out. Check the online program for this year’s details. Tickets are more expensive at the door, so be sure to buy yours early!


  • As on Thursday, there are four sessions throughout the day, in multiple tracks.
  • The Map and Geographic Data Curation track will be held on Friday.
  • Friday evening is the closing banquet. Dinner will be served, there will be a raffle, and awards for the Student Map Competitions will be announced. Check the online program for this year’s details.
  • The final event of the main conference is a game of Geodweeb Geopardy! Four teams of contestants compete in front of a live audience. If you’d like to join a team, sign up at the registration desk. Geopardy is a NACIS tradition — don’t miss it!
  • Food:
    • Snacks and coffee are available in the morning.
    • Lunch is on your own. Stop by the registration desk where informal groups go out to a nearby restaurant together.
    • Dinner is provided at the banquet.


  • There are two kinds of optional events, requiring additional registration, which take place on Saturday:
    • Field trips: tours of nearby sites of beauty or cultural interest.
    • Workshops: hands-on instruction on the latest software or techniques.
  • Some workshops/field trips are half-day, so it’s possible to attend more than one. See this year’s online program for schedule details.

We hope this overview is helpful! If you have any questions in advance of the meeting, write us at info@nacis.org.