Helping students get the most out of attending their first SAS Users Group Conference

Student’s schedules are packed with activities these days but taking time out to attend a conference is always a great addition to any semester.  For students who use SAS and want to attend a SAS Users Group conference, here are some tips to help you get the most out of the event.

1)      Arrive early - Opening session is a great way to get the feel for what you will experience at the conference. It is also a great opportunity to meet other SAS users before the conference kicks into high gear.  With everyone scurrying between sessions hoping to attend every presentation of interest, it can get pretty frantic during the main conference days. There is also a “first-timers” session which will provide even more information and tips to help you really make the most of the conference.

2)      Make a plan - Conferences are schedule driven.  The conference website is a great place to view the full range of activities.  All sessions are noted with the time and place.  Take time to review the entire schedule before the conference and plan out the activities you want to attend.

It is likely there will be two or more presentations you want to attend that are scheduled for the same time slot.  Consider rank ordering the presentations so you can manage your choices.  If the session turns out not to be what you expected, you can pop out and head to the other one.

3)      Pick up handouts for any sessions you miss due to scheduling conflicts - If there is a presentation you are interested in and you miss it, plan to stop by and pick up any handouts that were provided. While it’s certianly not the same as attending the presentation in person, it will give you the highlights of what you missed.

4)      Network at the conference - SAS User Group conferences are a great way for students to find potential employment opportunities and career ideas.  The conference is filled with other people who use SAS.  Talk to people about how they use SAS; you are sure to learn some tips to help you become a better SAS programmer. You might even find that SAS is being used in ways you’ve not thought of before.

5)      Get certified - Many of the SAS User Group conferences offer the SAS Certification exams at the conference.  As a student you are eligible for student pricing on the exam.  There are also often “practice exams” you can take at the conference at no charge.  This is a quick way to gauge your exam readiness.  These are generally offered at the SAS Education booth in the demo room.  Earning a SAS certification is a great addition to your resume.

6)      Look out for giveaways  - SAS User Group Conferences are known for their awesome giveaways.  Books, free training classes, and free certification exam vouchers are just a few of the giveaways you are likely to see at the conference.

7)      Volunteer  -  One of the best ways to make the most out of attending the conference is to volunteer.  Volunteering will give you exposure to a variety of activities and allow you to meet people who are involved with the conference.  Being a conference volunteer is also something that can be included on your resume.

There are a lot of great activities to attend at a SAS users group conference.  Come to the conference with a plan of action, a desire to learn, and an interest in meeting other SAS users, and you are sure to have a great conference.

NOTE: This post originally appeared in the Generation SAS blog.

tags: certification, first timer, student ambassador program

4 Comments

  1. Posted September 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Many analytic types are introverted, so talking to a stranger might not be easy. Here are three sure-fire tips, to bring the total list up to 10:
    8) Definitely go to the First-Timer session and meet the other First-Timers. Suggest to a group of 4-5 that you should meet for lunch or dinner. Also suggest meeting at the mixers. Tell them what sessions you are looking forward to (from #2) and ask whether anyone is attending those as well.
    9) Arrive early to sessions and get a seat. As people filter in around you, introduce yourself and let them know that this is your first conference and that you are interested in X, Y, and Z. You'll be surprised how often people will offer pointers and tips.
    10) Go up to the speaker afterwards, introduce yourself, tell her you enjoyed the presentation, and ask for a business card.

  2. Debbie Buck
    Posted September 29, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Excellent suggestions, Julie & Rick! These tips are not only applicable and valuable to students, but other first-timers and even experienced attendees!

  3. Kirk Paul Lafler
    Posted September 29, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    These are excellent suggestions that will help all SAS users get the most out of attending a SAS Conference! Thank you for sharing your ideas Julie and Rick.

  4. Sunil Gupta
    Posted October 16, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I agree. As a mentor in the WUSS and SAS Global Forum programs, I encourage my mentees to follow these great suggestions. Just returning WUSS, I am happy to see strong involvement of the 'first time attendees'.

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