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 them.
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.
Till we meet in Williamsburg!