Davidson County Tennessee map detail

Learn Adventurously at Professional Conferences

First, I’ll show you a map.
Then, you’ll see where I’m going with it.

The map

In our print publication Better Tennessee magazine, we list hundreds of our clients’ partner organizations by name, like this:


For the web, we were challenged to do a bit more. Our client wanted an easy-to-navigate interactive map that gave visitors  an overview of each nonprofit organization’s purpose, the level of support behind them for each of the last three years, addresses and links to their websites.

Achieving those goals required us to:

  • Create a comprehensive directory of over a thousand organizations
  • Allow visitors to filter those organizations by topic
  • Include updated stats by county as those filters were selected

The screenshot at the top of this page illustrates one function of the map, but to actually play with its interactive features, you can visit it on the web at bettertennessee.com/partners.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 12.41.10 PM

Stumbling toward hidden treasures

When presented with the task to create this map and its predecessor, I had to acknowledge a set of fateful circumstances that allowed their execution.

I had attended WordCamp Birmingham 2014 with the broad intention to learn more about how other developers were using WordPress. On a whim, I walked into Kyle Evans’ talk “Use WordPress and SVG to Create Dynamic Maps and Other Awesome Things.” While the entire conference was interesting and valuable in some way or another, that single hour has vastly exceeded the initial investment of time and money to travel out-of-state and attend the event.

Serendipity like the alignment of Evans’ talk with the yet-unknown needs of two of our clients strikes me as one of the best arguments for attending conferences to bolster employee education. As professionals, we can easily identify the types of events we should attend. Once there, though, we benefit most by stepping outside our comfort zones and seeking out talks about emergent subtopics and niche subjects that we wouldn’t encounter through our routine self-education methods.

There’s no way to truly see what our clients may need in a year or two, or five, but by learning adventurously we may stumble across scraps of knowledge that will prove to demonstrate great value.