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Analytics Magazine

Speakers Program is alive and getting better

By Gary Gaukler, Sheldon H. Jacobson and Özlem Ergun

Mark Twain is purported to have said, “The report of my death was exaggerated.” This quip applies to the INFORMS Speakers Program. Originally launched by ORSA (a forerunner of INFORMS) more than 35 years ago, the program was designed to allow INFORMS chapters and student chapters to invite INFORMS members as speakers to their meetings. The program assembled a star-studded collection of potential speakers (all of them INFORMS members), covering topics as varied as the areas in which operations research and analytics can be applied.

In recent years, requests for speakers have waned, prompting the Speakers Program Committee to reinvigorate the program to help maximize its value to the membership. The Speakers Program Committee is chaired by Gary Gaukler, with committee members Sheldon Jacobson and Özlem Ergun and INFORMS liaisons Scharan Johnson and Tracy Cahall.

The focus of the program remains unchanged: connect INFORMS chapters and student chapters to outstanding speakers in O.R., management science and analytics. Currently, there are more than 50 speakers available through the Speakers Program, with diverse topic areas including bracketology, RFID and IoT, voting systems, gerrymandering, homeland security, emergency medical services, game theory and vehicle routing, among others. For a complete list of speakers and topics, visit

The Speakers Program continues to be an opportunity to attract world-class speakers to events, especially for smaller chapters and student chapter meetings. No honoraria are paid to speakers.

A number of new features have been added to the Speakers Program. First, the Speakers Program website ( makes it easy to browse the list of available speakers. Submitting a request for a speaker is as simple as filling in an online form with the details about the chapter requesting the speaker, the timeframe of the request and the speaker(s) requested. INFORMS is working on a redesign of this website, which will make it even easier to search the list of available speakers and speaker topics. Look for an announcement when the new site rolls out in early 2019.

Second, we have made it financially easier for chapters to host speakers through the Speakers Program. As noted, no honoraria are required, so chapters are only responsible for actual travel and hosting costs, and even these costs are heavily subsidized since INFORMS recognizes that many chapters, especially the smaller chapters, lack financial resources. Therefore, INFORMS typically provides partial funding to help cover travel, hotel, local transportation and/or meals. Simply submit a list of expected expenses through the online form, and we’ll work with you to determine what the program budget can cover. In cases of financial hardship INFORMS may cover up to 100 percent of the costs.

It is the committee’s hope that many more chapters and student chapters will be motivated and encouraged to take advantage of this program. So, please consider how the Speakers Program can add value to your upcoming meetings and events and start a speaker request at

A few things to keep in mind if your chapter would like to use the program: All speakers are volunteers; they all have day jobs, and hence, their availability for any specific date is subject to their own schedule. Therefore, we encourage you to request speakers at least three months in advance of the date of your event. It is also advisable to be flexible with either the dates or the speaker; it often makes sense to inquire about the availability of multiple (albeit prioritized) speakers.

We hope to see your speaker requests in the pipeline soon. If you have any further questions or suggestions, contact Tracy Cahall of INFORMS at

Gary Gaukler (chair), Sheldon H. Jacobson and Özlem Ergun are members of the 2018 INFORMS Speakers Program Committee.

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