The Program Chair’s Guide to the Galaxy

By Doug Tschopp

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms aspire to be university presidents.
The rest of us are at this conference and here are some tips on how to get the most out of your time on the planet Milwaukee:

Network – Use meals to sit with new people each day. Meet everyone at the table. Find out what they do. Exchange business cards and continue to make contact after the conference.

Track Sessions – Choose sessions that will help you build your primary skill sets. However, use one time slot to attend a session outside of your skill-set or knowledge area. I may never be a programmer, but the sessions I have sat through make me better able to speak that language and get projects done more efficiently.

Posters – Use this session to have in-depth conversations and build your knowledge on some new topics. I sometimes learn more in this hour and a half than during the balance of the conference.

Golden Nugget – Find your Golden Nugget. You will learn a lot at the conference and may be tempted to go back to work and try to implement all of the things you learned — and you will fail. It is almost impossible to implement more than one thing effectively at one time. Pick the best idea (your Nugget) and focus on implementing that. Once that is successful, then move on to the next idea.

Towels – This Guide has a few things to say on the subject of towels. A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing a HighEdWeber can have. Partly it has great practical value as you can wrap it around you for warmth while you sit through sessions in the coldest track room in the facility. It also can hold ice against your head if you ail.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. It shows that you travel prepared and makes those around you respect your knowledge. So bring your towel and be prepared for the #heweb12 experience.