June 1997 • Volume 24 • Number 3

Meeting Initiatives

By Art Geoffrion

The completion of a very successful meeting in San Diego provides a natural opportunity for me to tell you of some progress that has been made recently on this important front.

The national meetings are the responsibility of the Meetings Committee (http://www.informs.org/General/Comm/meetings.html) chaired by VP/Meetings Tom Gulledge, and the INFORMS Meetings Department (http://www.informs.org/General/Departments/meetings.html) directed by Julie Eldridge. There is now a strategic plan for meetings with five strategic goals supported by 14 objectives. This plan is available in full on the Meetings Committee's Web page, and your comments would be welcome.

Here are four developments that are now operational; please see the strategic plan for others that are brewing.

Meetings Within a Meeting
The new "meeting-within-a-meeting" concept is working well, and is available for use by any special interest group. The basic idea is a mini-conference, planned semi-autonomously even to the point of a separate registration fee if desired, held in conjunction with a national meeting. INFORMS professional staff provide a full range of services, leaving the organizers essentially with only the program to plan.

Two such mini-conferences have been held so far, most recently at the San Diego meeting. Both were called "Joint Conference on Information Systems & Technology," and were co-sponsored by the College on Information Systems and the College on Artificial Intelligence. This is an unusually efficient and hassle-free way to hold a small conference, and I recommend its consideration by others.

Better Packaging
National INFORMS meetings can be viewed as a collection of de facto mini-conferences on topical themes that differ somewhat from meeting to meeting. In San Diego, for example, application papers in computer science, health care, manufacturing, the military, telecommunications, tourism and transportation/logistics were especially numerous. Such paper concentrations are not entirely accidental, for cluster chairs and sponsored session chairs work hard to arrange papers in specific areas.

Packaging major paper groups as though they were special events and marketing them to those most likely to be interested allows INFORMS to advertise our best work to non-members and to achieve other benefits of a meeting within a meeting.

A first effort toward such packaging was made for the San Diego meeting, with full-time practitioners as the target market. Julie Eldridge led the team that prepared a direct mail brochure emphasizing applications in most of the areas mentioned above. To complement this brochure, INFORMS Online Editor Mike Trick prepared Web pages (http://www.informs.org/Conf/SD97/Prof/) that include nearly all of this brochure's information and more.

For future national meetings, a family of similar brochures and companion Web pages will be produced, each designed for a specific potential attendee market well served by the upcoming meeting. In this way, we hope to increase the attendance and navigability of each meeting in the areas of its greatest strength.

Registration List Sorted by Employer
Another first for the San Diego meeting was the on-site distribution of a list of preregistrants sorted by employer, with separate sections for academia, government and industry -- much as in the back of the Membership Directory. This facilitates the personal networking that is such an important benefit of going to meetings. When information systems considerations allow, this list will be expanded to include on-site registrants and a hotel code for each registrant to facilitate private messaging.

Presentation Database
The days of the grease pencil are all but over. Desktop computing and an increased emphasis on professionalism in the classroom have conspired to raise the minimum standard for visual aids at INFORMS meetings: more and more slide sets exist digitally before being printed on acetate, and slides are looking ever more professional.

Why waste these beautiful slide shows on a single performance? Why not make them available to the 12,000 or more INFORMS members who do not attend your talk? And to many times that number around the world?

There is now an easy way to do this: the INFORMS Database of Presentations in OR/MS (http://www.informs.org/Presentation/) being developed by Ramesh Sharda.

If you have presentation-related materials on-line, you can add the URL to the database on a submission form provided at the above address. If your materials are not already on-line but are in a Web-friendly format -- preferably HTML, PowerPoint, Adobe's portable document format (pdf) or postscript -- then INFORMS will host the file for you. And for at least the next year or so, INFORMS will even convert your materials to one of these formats and host them provided that you are a full-time practitioner.

How do people access this new database of presentation-related materials? It has an easy Web interface for browsing and string search. Moreover, starting with the Dallas INFORMS meeting this fall, the URLs of supporting materials will be published in the bulletin.

I hope you will consider making your presentation materials available in this way, for all of your talks whether or not they happen to be at an INFORMS national meeting. The reasons for doing this include obtaining great visibility, helping to build a potentially major resource for the profession, and seven other good reasons as listed on the above site.

In closing, I invite you to give me, Tom Gulledge (gulledge@gmu.edu) or Julie Eldridge (julie.eldridge@informs.org) your suggestions for making our future meetings even more successful than in the past.

Art Geoffrion

Art Geoffrion is the president of INFORMS. He can be reached via e-mail atarthur.geoffrion@anderson.ucla.edu

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