Three Positive Impacts Sponsors Have on You

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 …”

Obverse and reverse of a three pence note of paper currency issued by the Province of Pennsylvania and printed by Benjamin Franklin in 1764.

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 you.

Leonardo DiCaprio from Wolf of Wall Street

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 on ads.

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 appreciation.

Finally, if your company would like to be a sponsor, please reach out to us. The Prospectus can be found here.

Stay up to date about SESUG Williamsburg. Follow us on Twitter. Like us on Facebook. Connect with us on LinkedIn. Stop by the local barbershop and catch all the news.

Interview with the Grant Lady

The First Lady Grant: Julia Grant with husband and son.
The First Lady Grant: Julia Grant with husband and son.
– Smithsonian

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 wonderful today!

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 for grantees?

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 statistical model?

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 absconded!

Charlotte and Chuck – SESUG St. Pete 2018

Why is a track a track?

Rachel Straney, Academic Chair

We run the race with determination!

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!