Many people experience will experience 2 or 3 days of wonderful happenings at SESUG Williamsburg. They see all of the papers and networking, demos and parties. What they don’t see is everything behind the scenes that went into making this happen. It’s a year round job that started for 2019 before the 2018 conference ended. This monthly blog is a peek behind the curtain at some of the many decisions, research, frustrations and excitement. We hope you enjoy. Submit your papers here and register here.
The conveyance of Fresh Goods and Ideas has arrived here from adventurers and established Ladies and Gentlemen across the King’s lands. This compleat Sett of teckniques, case studies and examples of Statistical Arithmetick will be made available to any Person desirous of becoming a more useful Member of civil Society. The ingenious and valuable literature, in prose and verse, will be presented at the Event of High Society in beautiful Williamsburg, VA in October 20-22, in the Year of Our Lord 2019. For your great learning, we have measured the Length and breadth of these Papers taken in.
We have a final line up for this year’s SESUG conference in Williamsburg and it is going to be spectacular! There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for this year, as the number of submissions for content was high. We had 174 paper proposals on topics ranging from data processing to output and reporting. This left the decision-making process challenging for the conference committee but the results are in with 144 accepted papers.
Many of our accepted papers and presentations will discuss
the use of SAS Macros to improve efficiency in SAS programs. The use of these techniques can reduce the
amount of code written and save the programmer time.
For the analysts, statisticians and data scientists… we
will have a lot of discussion surrounding data analysis methodology and
predictive modeling. If this is your interest, then grab a seat and take it all
in – there will be an entire two days of presentations dedicated to these
topics in the Statistics and Data Analysis track.
Data visualization has been a hot topic for several years
now and there will be plenty to talk about at SESUG 2019. Many of our
presentations will also discuss the use of SAS Formats and the Output Delivery
System (ODS), which are staple tools for formatting and stylizing your summarized
results. You will be able to find many of these talks in the Reporting and
Although it may not have made our top list, Open Analytics
will be a highlighted track this year. There are several papers dedicated to
integrating R, Python and other open source platforms with SAS. The Open
Analytics track will run most of Tuesday and will cover topics like SAS and R
Integration for running Random Forests to leveraging SASPy for more effective
SESUG 2019 Presenters
Not surprisingly, most of our presenters this year come from the southeast region of the US. But we will have presenters traveling all the way from California to share their analytics knowledge. There are several presenters traveling internationally from India and South Korea as well! They all come from different industries and bring knowledge that will spark great discussions and get attendees thinking about how they do analytics.
In addition to the great information and content shared by
SAS users like you, we will have presentations made by SAS as well. Here are
the great topics they will be sharing:
We will have 2 hour long Panel Discussions this year – one in the Analytics Leadership track and the other in the Reporting and Visualization track. The Analytics Leadership panel discussion will include invited individuals to discuss trending topics on analytics leadership. They will share experiences and highlight effective approaches to promoting analytics in an organization. The Reporting and Visualization panel discussion will focus on strategies to create effective marketing graphics, discuss which graphics platforms can be used, and the ethics involved when “selling with graphics.”
Unlike the Pre-conference and Post-conference workshops,
these workshops are run alongside other concurrent sessions during the
conference. This year we are running the HOW sessions as a “bring your own
device” setup. Attendees will be asked to remotely connect to an AWS server through
their own devices using their Remote Desktop Connection application, which will
allow them access to the Hands on Workshop exercises on a virtual machine. An
instructor will be present to guide you through the exercises. There will be a
variety of topics discussed in these workshops including, but not limited to, UNIX tools (GNU), the use of Proc Tabulate and
ODS, regression modeling, and SAS Visual Analytics.
Conference Pre- and Post-Workshops
We have talented, recognized, and experienced instructors prepared to share their knowledge in 4-hour sessions before and after the conference. You can sign up for a conference workshops when you register for the conference for an additional cost that is well worth the price. Here is the list of workshops available this year.
Join us in Williamsburg… Registration is Open!
There will be a lot covered at SESUG 2019. If you are interested in any of these topics or have your own in mind that were not mentioned, join us October 20-22, 2019 in Williamsburg, VA. You can register for the conference here.
Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Our Sponsors
What do you think about SESUG sponsors? You see them on the website, in e-mails, and with tables at the conference. We might get e-mails from sponsors before or after the conference. Why do we have sponsors and what does it mean to you when you see “SESUG Williamsburg is brought to you by …”
You, the reader, make up two critical components of SESUG. You are the teachers and the learners. You are the whole reason for the conference.
The third critical component is sponsorships. These
conferences are expensive. If you’ve ever worked with a hotel / conference
center, you know how much they charge for everything, and I do mean everything.
Pitchers of water, those may be free of charge. Cookies, electrical power, lunch,
projectors, you name it, if we get it from the hotel, it costs money and a lot.
One way we can cover the expenses of SESUG is to charge more
for registration. We do not like that idea. (Do you? If you think it’s fine,
then let us know in the comments.) We’ve been trying very hard to keep the
costs down and the registration fee low. For example, we do not have printed
programs anymore. Instead we have the app and online program. We also may not
have bags or t-shirts, especially since many people bring backpacks or other
bags already, and some people have a lot of t-shirts already. (Is that thinking
right or not? Let us know in the comments.) We are also not including lunch,
which would be between $30 and $45 per person. We make those choices not
because we are mean, but because we want to keep the conference affordable for
The other way we cover expenses is by having sponsors. When we get more sponsors, we can do more things. We can have lunch for everyone. We can have dedicated Wi-Fi for everyone. (Do you know what Wi-Fi is short for? Let us know in the comments.) We can bring in better keynote speakers, not like the one we had in 2016. (Yes, that was me.)
But even if we don’t have all of those amenities we still need sponsors. The current plan and fee structure already assume a certain amount of sponsorship just to break even. Sponsors are very important.
So why do companies sponsor? The two main reasons companies
sponsor are relationship building / brand recognition, and lead generation. They
are there to meet you and for you to learn more about them. And, frankly, they
want to sell their products and services. If you are an influencer or
decision-maker, then they want to see if you are a potential client. This is
how it works everywhere. We either pay for an app directly or we pay with our attention
What does it mean for you?
First, you will see ads from sponsors before, during and after the conference. We, and they, do not deluge you with the ads. Everyone knows that’s counterproductive. Our goal is that the ads are relevant to you, or at least as relevant as we can make it without digging into your privacy! (What do you think about ads? Good, bad, indifferent? Give us your feedback.)
Second, you will have the opportunity to learn about schools, employers, products and services. Some of it won’t be relevant at this time, but understanding the broader analytics ecosystem is very helpful to your career.
Third, you will have a greater conference experience. If you’ve been to the SAS Global Forum, you know the potential. We know we’re not going that big, but, with sponsors, we have room to grow.
Also, it’s important to remember that SAS has been our biggest sponsor from the very beginning and still is today. They help us with speakers, events, Grants and technology. Thank you, SAS, for all you do!
Speakers, attendees and sponsors are the three legs that
make the conference possible. So, whether you are attending the conference or
not (and we hope you are!) please learn about our sponsors and show them your
Good content can really make an attendee’s experience. We come to learn and there is no better place than SESUG with Academic Sessions, Demos, Hands-on-Workshops, Pre- and Post-Conference Workshops and Peer-to-Peer learning. But how does that content get there and how are we doing so far? Let us see…
As Academic Chair for the SESUG 2019 conference, one of my responsibilities is managing the content of paper proposals that you submit for the conference in October. By no means do I do this alone – I get a lot of help from the Section Chairs who oversee their individual academic sections. It is very much a team effort. As paper submissions roll in they are on the front lines reviewing content and eventually they will be the ones who guide final authors to the final stage in Williamsburg. A quick shout out to my Section Chairs – you all are the best and you make this conference great!
I have shared how Chuck and I identified the tracks for this year’s conference. Now I want to take some time to reflect on the responses and provide a sneak preview of some of the topics we may see this year. Unfortunately, it is too early to announce the final roll call since the submissions will still be accepted until June 13th (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). But hopefully this teaser will pique your interest on attending or even submitting a proposal of your own.
Submission Hot Topics
We have had many great submissions so far across all of our academic sections. Keywords were collected on the submission applications this year to help with organizing conference content. Here are the popular keyword topics people have submitted content for, some of which we will see and hear about in October. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Words may show a man’s wit, but actions his meaning.” Keep those submissions coming… there is still time!
Tried and True
For as long as I have been involved with SESUG, the most popular sections that get the most submissions are the instructional how-to sections (this year called Know your SAS: Foundations and Know your SAS: Advanced Techniques), Statistics and Data Analysis, Reporting and Visualization and Coder’s Corner. This year has been no different – over 60% of the paper proposals we have thus far were submitted to one of these sections. Many of these submissions propose papers on topics like the use of SAS Macros, tips for efficient programming, and commonly used SAS procedures that an analyst should always have handy in their analytics toolbox.
I have heard somewhere that if you build it, they will come.
We decided on an Open Analytics section this year in the hopes that SAS users
who integrate their analytics with open source platforms would have a
designated place. To be honest, Chuck and I really were not sure how it
would go. However, this section has seen strong paper abstract submissions. It
seems a lot of people are excited and enthusiastic about having a
focused track on these topics and I can’t wait to see how it will all unfold in
Can We Get a Little TLC?
I understand it is still a bit early, but as of now there are a few sections that need a bit of love – Data Management and Big Data, Planning and Administration, Industry Specific Topics (Education/Institutional Research, Pharmaceuticals, Government), Analytics Leadership, Hands on Workshops and E-Posters. These are great sections that I anticipate will get plenty of content in the coming weeks. If you have an idea for sharing installation, deployment, and migration tips – submit a proposal to the Planning and Administration section. Instructions for submitting can be found here.
If you are concerned that you don’t have anything exciting, remember that a large diversity of people come to SESUG with a wide variety of backgrounds. Believe it or not, there will be things you know that many people don’t! What did you learn this year? Teach others. Have a case study for your industry? People love that! Do you integrate SAS with open source analytics? Show us how! Presenting to others is a great way to not only share your knowledge but build it up even stronger for yourself.
If it is your first time presenting at a conference and just want to get your feet wet – give E-Posters a shot. Hands on Workshops is a great way to dive deep on a topic. HOW instructors will have 1.5-2 hour instruction time, which is plenty to cover several examples on a topic of your choice. Last but not least, our new Analytics Leadership track is for the leaders and champions of analytics who wish to share experiences and highlight effective approaches to promoting analytics in their organizations.
Conference Pre- and Post-Workshopsare Available
We have talented, recognized, and experienced instructors prepared to share their knowledge in 4-hour sessions before and after the conference. You can sign up for a conference workshop when you register for the conference for an additional cost that is well worth the price! You can find the list of workshops available this year on the SESUG website for more details.
There is still time to Contribute your Ideas!
If you have an idea for a paper, submit your abstract by following this link here. The SESUG 2019 Call for Papers is open until June 13th!
Hear ye! Hear ye! The Grant Applications portal is now open! Students, Faculty and High School teachers can find info here. If you work outside of academia you can find info here. As Ben Franklin would have said if he knew about the program, “Ready money can be found in the SESUG Grants. Apply today!” Read on for a behind the scenes look at the Grant program with the incoming Grant Lady, Charlotte Baker.
For over 13 years SESUG has been providing scholarships to the
conference. Let me introduce you to the amazing person who will be overseeing
that process, Charlotte Baker. Charlotte was the co-chair for the 2018 SESUG
conference in St. Pete. Now she is taking over the Grant committee from the
indomitable Barbara Okerson, conference chair 2011. Charlotte will be the new Grant
Lady and like a cat lady, she feels strongly about the Grant program and takes
care of her Grantees very well. Recently, Charlotte and I had a conversation
about all things “Grant.”
Chuck: Hello Charlotte, it’s good to see you. You’re looking
Charlotte: Thank you, Chuck. It’s good to see you, too.
Chuck: The Grant program has been around a long time, but
with so many people attending the conference, why do we need it?
Charlotte: Many new SAS users can benefit a great deal from
attending a conference like this in terms of long-term SAS use, but they can’t
afford to go. The Grant program is a mechanism to help those people get to
SESUG who otherwise couldn’t by giving reduced registration and hotel rates,
and an opportunity for travel stipends. We want new people and new ideas!
Chuck: You say they can benefit. Why is the conference good
Charlotte: Grantees receive all the usual good stuff when
they attend SESUG plus a built-in network within the network for longer term
support. Grantees also get to see a bit of the inner workings through
volunteering during the conference. What’s not good about that?
Chuck: I’ve seen the budget and I know that the Grant
program is expensive. Who pays for the grants?
Charlotte: SAS Institute pays for most of the grants and SESUG pays for the rest through the general conference budget. It is a big investment but totally worth it.
Chuck: It sounds like a great program. Do users think so? Do
many people apply for the grants?
Charlotte: It depends year to year. We always get more
applications than we can fund but are really hoping for at least 20
applications for each of our grant categories this year for competitiveness. We
usually get more student and professional development applications than faculty
applications. Sometimes our timing for the applications are weird for academics
and people miss the messages.
Chuck: Hmm, that’s not good that they miss the message. What’s
going on and what would you tell them?
Charlotte: The summer break is what’s going on. Students,
Faculty and High School teachers are focused on finishing classes up. And then
they may go on summer break. By the time they get back it’s too late for them
to apply since applications close in July. [Ed note: July 8th] I
recommend that they take some time right now and fill out the application and
get it in. Don’t forget student ID’s, pictures and all that other stuff, too.
Chuck: How do you decide who gets the grants? Is there a
Charlotte: Wouldn’t that be neat?! We really go through and
look at the people that are applying and why they want to come to SESUG. We
rank the applicants based on their responses. Our preference is people who are
presenting a paper and we pick applicants from the Southeast and Northeast (old
NESUG territory) first and second. We also really pay attention to whether you
can come to the whole conference (or at least most of it). While we do get
applications from previous grantees (who we love!), only those who have not
gotten a grant in that category before can be picked.
Chuck: What is expected of the grantees at the conference?
Charlotte: Show up. Learn. Volunteer. Meet people. Have fun!
Chuck: It sounds like a successful program. Are there any success
stories for the grant program?
Charlotte: All the previous grantees are fantastic success
stories. The current Executive Committee has two former grantees (myself
included) and many of our section chairs for operations and academics have been
grantees before. It is always great when they like it enough to come back and
help move this all-volunteer organization forward.
Chuck: Now most importantly, “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?”
Charlotte: I really hope old Ulysses and his wife haven’t
One of the first major tasks that Chuck and I were charged with as Conference Chairs was to identify the academic sections that would serve as a blueprint for conference content. You would think that coordinating a conference for analysts as analysts would make it easy to predict the topical areas that attendees plan to attend… Not in the slightest.
It is challenging to balance consistency with originality. Every pair of SESUG conference chairs that has served before us have infused their own personality and character into the event. Although we went into this with the hopes of leaving our own mark, it was also important to us to ensure that the conference was consistent with past years and retained the SESUG spirit.
So what was the process and why is a track a track? Well,
never having attempted something like this before, the statistician in me came
out and I turned to identifying what was done at past SESUG conferences. I
pulled SESUG conference proceedings from the last 7 years. I classified all the
proceedings into what I called “General Section Names.” This was a real
qualitative approach and after I was done, I went back for more – a cross
sectional evaluation of all the SAS Regional User Groups…. And while I was at
it I threw Global Forum in there for good measure. I was creating tables and
summarizing any patterns I saw from them…
While I was spinning my analytical wheels, Chuck was
dreaming up big ideas. His approach was more creative and rather than asking
the question of “what was?” started asking “what could be?” It was during our
first site visit to Williamsburg while driving from the Williamsburg Lodge back
to the Richmond Airport that we started to discuss our ideas about academic
sections. “What do you think about an Analytics Leadership track?” he said
enthusiastically. “And how about Open Analytics?… It’s the future of
analytics and we can put the spotlight on it in historical
Williamsburg!” He said in his humorous Chuck style.
After our collaboration, we landed on the academic sections
we have for this year. Many of them you know and love like “Coder’s Corner” and
“Statistics and Data Analysis.” Some sections will have familiar content with
new names, like “Know your SAS: Foundations” and “Know your SAS: Advanced
Techniques.” These two sections stemmed from the well-attended “Building
Blocks” from past years. Our hope is that by having two sections classified by
programming experience, attendees will have an easier time finding content that
is relevant to them. Other sections are entirely new, like “Open Analytics;”
Although for many years we have seen papers presented at SESUG that leverage
SAS with open platforms, we felt it was time to designate a section just for
After the process of identifying the academic sections came
to a close, I realized that my co-chair and I had balanced consistency and
originality quite well and I knew we would make a pretty good duo. Chuck is the
creative and I bring the pragmatism. Together I think we identified a good set
of topical areas that I hope all attendees will enjoy.