What to Expect at a NACIS Meeting

NACIS Annual Meetings begin with Practical Cartography Day (PCD) on Wednesday. PCD requires registration separate from the Main Conference, which starts on Wednesday evening with a keynote speaker and the opening of the Map Gallery. Presentations, panels, and other sessions start Thursday morning and, along with other activities mentioned below, continue throughout the day Thursday and Friday. The Main Conference formally concludes Friday evening with a banquet. Workshops and field trips are held on Saturday. A general NACIS schedule is outlined below according to the different conference days. For details on the full schedule, visit our Sched page.

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. Don’t 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, a light continental breakfast and coffee are available before PCD and the daily Main Conference sessions start. 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 have ribbons on their name tags indicating that 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. You can check in at the registration table, located in the foyer near the conference sessions.  Check here for details of an informal Tuesday night meetup to go out and socialize 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 is a popular venue where leading members of the cartographic community present tips, tricks, techniques, and advice on practical map-making in all its formats and mediums.
  • The Main Conference formally opens on Wednesday evening after dinner, starting with a welcome and featuring a special guest speaker.
  • After the speaker’s presentation, 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:
    • A light continental breakfast and coffee are available for PCD attendees before it starts.
    • 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 each set. 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, including history, librarianship, techniques, data sources, research, theory and more. 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 outside the session rooms, you can pace yourself by taking a break from the presentations.
  • The NACIS Annual Business Meeting is held during the lunch period. Everyone at the conference is encouraged to attend so as to learn how the Society operates and what it’s doing. If you are a NACIS member, this is a chance to help influence its policies, as the Society votes on business matters at this Meeting. There will be an opportunity for members to share announcements of interest to the whole group.
  • Between the last session of the day and NACIS Night Out there is an optional Fun Run/Walk. It’s a great way to get some exercise and explore the city before going out to eat.
  • NACIS Night Out is an optional social event, requiring separate registration, in which attendees head over to a nearby restaurant and enjoy an evening of food and drinks. Check here for details.  Tickets are more expensive at the door, and may be sold out, so be sure to get yours early!
  • Food:
    • A light continental breakfast and coffee are available before the presentations start.
    • Lunch is provided at the Annual Business Meeting.
    • Dinner is on your own.  For those attending NACIS Night Out, food and drinks are available.


  • The Main Conference continues, and as on Thursday there are four sessions throughout the day, in multiple tracks.
  • During the lunch break there is an informal option called Lunch Bunch, in which groups led by a NACIS veteran go out to nearby restaurants. Sign up for this option at the registration desk as early as possible, since it fills up quickly!
  • Friday evening is the closing banquet. Dinner is served, presentations made, and awards for the Student Map Competitions announced. Check here 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:
    • A light continental breakfast and coffee are available before the presentations start.
    • Lunch is on your own – this includes the Lunch Bunch option described above.
    • Dinner is provided at the banquet.


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

We hope this overview is helpful! If you have any questions in advance of the meeting, write us at [email protected].