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.
It was wonderful to see and talk with so many SAS Administrators at SAS Global Forum this year. If you’re like me, you may have finished the conference wondering why it wasn’t possible to be two places at once because there was so much terrific content that it was impossible to see it all.
I haven’t yet figured out how to be two places at once, but I have compiled a list of some of the great SAS Global Forum 2014 papers that are especially relevant for SAS Admins. Based on conversations with many of you and with the questions we received during the SAS Administrators Panel Discussion, I recommend the following list:
General Administration Topics
Migration, “Modernization” and Moving to 9.4
SAS Grid Manager
If you have a favorite paper that’s not on this list, please leave a comment below.
Technology and software, much like SAS, makes everything simpler and more accessible. To fully appreciate what a company like SAS embodies and what it has to offer a student, I feel it is essential to attend SAS Global Forum, especially if analytics is something that drives you. Attending a conference this diverse and of this caliber can be a great opportunity to learn and meet others in the same field of study and industry.
Attending as a student can, however, be a bit overwhelming, even though it is a great way to motivate yourself and get your innovative ideas flowing. Based on my experience at SAS Global Forum 2014 in Washington, DC, I wrote this simple guide for students who wish to attend a future SAS Global Forum conference:
Tip #1: Attempt to have your schedule set at least one week in advance.
In regards to scheduling, as students, we should find this aspect of the conference to be less problematic, given that it is similar to selecting what courses you will be taking during the latter term of the academic school year. SAS Global Forum offers a preset track for Education that is recommended for students; however, do not feel obligated to go down this path when selecting workshops that you feel best cater to you.
As a first time attendee, like me, you tend to stack up your schedule with a copious number of workshops because you want to soak up all information available. I recommend spacing out your workshops and limiting yourself to a small handful of courses, preferably in the same area of study so that you have enough time to break and experience what the demo area has to offer.
When selecting a workshop, be sure to read the detailed description provided to you online because it will answer all of your concerns about what will be offered and will make your selection process a lot more efficient.
Tip #2: Remember you are no longer behind a computer, and try something new.
It is essential, and I am not exaggerating, that you bring business cards to the conference! For those students that have never printed business cards for themselves, there are many sites online where you can purchase anywhere up to 500 cards with a budget of $10.
Remind yourself that you are attending a conference where almost everyone in attendance has similar interests in analytics, so do not be afraid to express yourself and break out of your comfort zone when meeting new people. Talk about what you like to do in your spare time other than linear regression or data mining.
Do not attend this conference with the mentality of trying to score a job; moreover, be open minded in getting to know where you may see yourself in the future and what best suits your goals. Voice your experiences and opinions because you never know who might just be listening. I recommend that you also get to know the other student attendees because you definitely will have the same drive to succeed and it makes the conference just that much better.
Tip #3: Arrive early, and it is okay to say no!
I cannot stress enough how time management will be your best friend during the conference. If one of your workshops is scheduled to be at 10:00 am, I would arrive at least 20 minutes early because space is limited and workshops tend to fill up quickly.
Going to bed on time may be very difficult, given that SAS offers such appealing events at night such as: Get- Acquainted Reception, a mixer hosted by SAS Costumer Loyalty and the Kick-back Party! If you know that the next morning you most likely will not wake up, it is okay to say no and skip out on one of these events. Remember that you are still there professionally
You’d think life would be calmer after the high energy of SAS Global Forum. Not so here at SAS! Your feedback is THE most crucial element of the conference for SAS teams, and we’ll be spending the next few weeks digesting it, choosing the best method for implementing it and finally getting your suggestions ready for release.
What will you be doing with all that great conference content now that you’re back in the office?
Post-conference follow-up is just as important as the conference itself, maybe even more so in today’s economy. Your organization saw the value in sending you to SAS Global Forum 2014. In return, what’s the best way to ensure that you and your organization will get the most out of that investment? I’ve done a little research and pulled together a few tips on what to do now that you're home from SAS Global Forum (or any SAS users conference):
- Act now. Nothing’s staler than yesterday’s news so share feedback with your colleagues as soon as possible. Find a timeframe that works and commit to it. A week or two after you return is optimal, certainly no later than a month.
- Make it personal. What I really mean by that is, keep it informal and in person. Don’t make your report too labor-intensive for yourself or your colleagues—maybe lunch in a conference room or a regular department meeting. Use this time to share industry practices, case studies, real-world examples or any words of wisdom that apply.
- Share conference goodies.You can keep those cool giveaways and tchotchkes! Conference content is available on-demand now. Here’s a quick list of links you’ll want to keep for reference or share with others:
- Follow the rule of three. This tip was new to me, and I’m going to give it a try myself. In the afterglow of the conference, we may try to apply everything we learned all at once. Instead, focus on the three concepts or tools that you can apply reasonably and effectively. Then, move on to the next three ideas, and so on. Let me know what you think.
- Stay connected. Join a SAS support community. Follow post-conference conversations on SAS Software Facebook page, on Twitter at #sasusers and the SAS LinkedIn company page. Read recaps from all the fine authors at SAS blogs authors.
- Don’t toss those business cards. Networking is a huge benefit of every SAS user conference, and it shouldn’t stop when you walk out the door of the conference hotel. Dial that phone number and finish up a hallway conversation. Send an email or make a phone call to ask those questions that will naturally come up as you try that new technique.
- Pitch your ideas to others. Try writing articles about your success (or your struggles—both are useful learning tools.) This tip works for both for your internal audience and for other SAS users. Plan to share your write-up at an upcoming users group meeting. And if you want to share that learning on this blog site, contact me and we’ll explore those options together!
Let me know how these ideas work for you. See you at the next SAS users conference!