In my last post, Expert tips for first-time attendees of SAS Global Forum 2016, I asked members of the SAS Global Users Group Executive Board what advice they had for users attending SAS Global Forum for the first time. In this post, they share tips for returning attendees.
Each year, approximately 50% of SAS Global Forum attendees are first-timers. With attendance expected to exceed 5,000 for this year’s conference in Las Vegas, that means the other half – literally thousands of users – will be returning for at least their second conference experience. Some have made it a yearly ritual. Dr. Herbert Kirk, for example, will be attending his 37th SAS Global Forum in Las Vegas in April. Kirk is the former Vice President of SAS Education and currently an Executive in Residence at the NCSU Institute of Advance Analytics. He’s just one of several dozen users who have attended at least 30 conferences. Hundreds more will be attending SAS Global Forum for at least the tenth time.
“Even though I’ve used SAS for more than 40 years, I always learn something new at SAS Global Forum,” said Kirk. “It’s amazing to see the innovative ways SAS is being used around the world. Plus, I get to meet a new generation of users and learn about the impressive things they’re doing with SAS. The conference really is a must for SAS professionals.”
With so many SAS users making SAS Global Forum an annual part of their career development, I asked the SAS Users Group Executive Board why so many users return year after year.
Here are some of their responses:
Stay fresh and innovative
“In our daily jobs it is hard to keep from getting stale,” said SAS Global Forum 2005 Chair Greg Nelson. “The conference provides an opportunity to stay fresh, network with others and spur innovation in our own ways of thinking. You just can’t get that from a book, blog or article.”
SAS Global Forum 2015 Chair Tyler Smith said the conference gives longtime users a current view of the ever-evolving world of analytics. “These days are not your parents ANOVAs or Logistic Regressions! Staying in tune with changing skills, capabilities, enablers, and key figures are critical for the development of all levels of expertise.”
Debbie Buck, chair of the 2011 conference, may have summed it up best. “I think that keeping current is the highest priority for users in attending SAS Global Forum. Learning how to utilize applications for non-obvious solutions are definitely something that users may not realize.”
Art Carpenter, chair of the 2003 conference, said SAS Global Forum is a great place for longtime SAS users to get revitalized. “The conference gives you a chance to rejuvenate and to explore the wealth of SAS knowledge that is shared by SAS users. Many of the most experienced programmers and users of SAS attend SAS Global Forum, and you can meet and learn from them all.”
SAS Global Forum 2014 chair Marje Fecht said each year brings together a unique set of users and learning opportunities. “SAS Global Forum has always provided an excellent opportunity to learn, to share, and to network. The collective business and technical knowledge of thousands of SAS users means that you will come home with new ideas, experiences, and skills each and every time you attend.
Learn what SAS has planned for the future
Vice President of SAS Publications Kathy Council said SAS Global Forum is a great place for returning attendees to learn about new SAS products, services and program. “SAS is a dynamic player in analytics and we’re constantly responding to the needs of our customers. It is very important to keep up with what SAS plans for the future.”
Frank Fry, 2001 chair, agreed with Council. He said The Quad, a space that invites attendees to gather, mingle, share and learn from their SAS peers, is the perfect place to learn about what SAS and its partners have planned for the future. “You can get valuable information from SAS staff and other attendees on the Quad.”
Continue to build your professional network
“Networking!” said the 2000 Chair Nancy Wilson when asked why attendees would want to attend SAS Global Forum each year. “When I am facing a new coding challenge the SAS users I met at conferences become resources. The ingenuity of user contributions are brilliant examples of real business uses of the SAS tools – and their success are published for us to leverage!”
“Networking and content are two things that keep me coming back year after year,” said Robert Fecht, the 2007 SAS Global Forum chair. “Select key presentations that you want to attend, and try to participate in all the networking activities that the location has to offer.”
Rick Mitchell, chair of SAS Global Forum 2013, encourages returning attendees, who often come for the content, to try to attend as many non-presentation activities as they can. “Network with people! There are so many people with different backgrounds who can give you new perspectives and learning experiences that may change your life.”
See old friends
Fry offered some parting advice for returning attendees: “Don’t forget to reconnect with old friends. I have made some real friends where we can share tips or other information. Some that I met in the 80's still connect by email, text or phone. What a great experience this has been.”
Lori Griffin, 2009 chair said SAS Global Forum can feel somewhat like one big family reunion: “This is one venue that has a family feel which fosters learning and networking.”
If you’re planning to attend your 2nd (or 40th) SAS Global Forum we’d love to hear what advice you’d give other returning attendees. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below or go to our SAS Global Forum 2016 community site, a great place for attendees to learn the latest conference news and connect with others planning to attend.