The SAS Users Groups Leaders meet-up was scheduled for the last evening of SAS Global Forum 2014, sandwiched between the last of the Tuesday presentations and the Kick-Back Party later that evening. There were a few familiar faces from regional users groups but lots of new ones from local and in-house groups. In fact, the meeting room was nearly standing room only!
SAS coordinators Nancy Moser and Sue Leitch each took the opportunity to reiterate the value and importance of SAS users groups and to remind us that SAS users groups are unique in the software industry. Each SAS user event, like the recording-breaking international conference in Washington, DC, is planned and organized by volunteers. That why meet-ups like those at SAS Global Forum 2014 are especially important as an opportunity for leaders to meet and learn from each other.
The big questions that night were how to find speakers and how to get new users--especially younger users—involved. New in-house and local SAS users groups are popping up daily and the regionals have opened their calls for participation, so I thought this would be a good time to share these tried-and-true ideas from experienced SAS users group leaders.
Many of you who couldn’t attend the meet-up have great ideas too. Please share them in the comment area below!
1. Play games. Use quizzes (with prizes and winners) to make learning more interactive. Curtis Reid of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that younger programmers and analysts often tune out on presentations and lengthy webinars. Instead, he’s devised a form of SAS Olympics where newer users compete on their knowledge of SAS.
2. Go virtual. Wells Fargo has a large in-house users group whose members are scattered in multiple locations throughout the US. SAS user Mary Katz says that web-based conferencing works well for them, not only for sharing information internally but also for scheduling external speakers from SAS and other sources.
3. Speak the right language. Deb White of SAS suggests switching up your communications tools if you’re having trouble getting a response. Try texting rather than voice or email, create a group Facebook page or try YouTube (depending, of course, on your organization’s social media policies.)
4. Try local schools. Need speakers? Contact your local college or university and find out which professors use SAS in their courses. Offer them an opportunity to help students practice their presentation skills. SCSUG Board Member Lisa Mendez told us that her organization used this idea very effectively at SCSUG 2013, nabbing nine speakers from universities with an Advanced Analytics program for a day-long Graduate Student Symposium in Analytics.
5. Train potential speakers. SAS enrolls its SAS Global Forum presenters in speaker training where there’s an interest. You may want to consider a similar program for developing presentation skills among your technical staff. Ask coworkers to share their projects in informal settings but keep the time limit short, and take advantage of speaker-training organizations such as Toastmasters International.
6. Avoid burnout. Many of the seasoned leaders in the room offered this closing piece of advice. Whether it’s running a smaller in-house users group or a yearly regional conference, be sure to involve others. They suggest that you create a planning or governing board and rotate leadership responsibilities among members. Invite new members to the leadership team regularly. Don’t overlook the Junior Professionals in your region—they’re interested in learning more.
Again, please share your great ideas below. I hope to see many of you at SAS Global Forum 2015.