Exhibit Hall Insights from #SHRM14

I spent much of the day Monday roaming the HUGE exhibit hall at the 2014 SHRM Annual Conference. This was by design as my previous venture to SHRM in Chicago ended before I could make it all the way through. For those thinking that I missed out on educational opportunities by not attending sessions, you are mistaken as the 2014 exhibition hall has numerous educational opportunities.

First, there are some “official” learning opportunities at stages set up by SHRM with a set schedule of demonstrations and short talks. These are focused on technology and can provide a good overview of a product’s features and usability. This doesn’t even count the new “SmartStage” that made its debut this year with 20 minute talks on a variety of subjects with some of the best minds in HR.

Several large booths have their own presentation spaces and also schedule times with industry leading speakers providing information on a variety of topics. These provide great opportunities to ask questions in a more intimate setting than can be found in the concurrent sessions at such a large conference.

Finally, many vendors provide great education just through conversation. While having fun and creating conversation is intended to generate leads, the vendors who attend this conference are frequently well informed and willing to engage in information exchange. Even when not necessarily interested in a product or offering, a few minutes chatting with a vendor can provide information to take back to our organizations or prompt new thinking on an old problem. Don’t be afraid to talk, even if there no use for a product or service. I learned about a recruiting strategy for a large public school system from an immigration assistance group. Although I do not intend to reach out to foreign teachers, the information shared started me thinking about an approach that I could use for harder to fill teaching positions.

A few other random thoughts that occurred to me while roaming:

  •   There are numerous companies offering to create employee engagement programs for your company. If you need an outside company to do this, you’re doing it wrong.
  •   Creativity with booth themes attracts attention. I see this at every conference I attend yet so few vendors are willing to go outside the traditional banners and information on a table. While budget can certainly play a role, a little bit of outside the box thinking can be cheaply and attract attention.
  •   Why was there a booth selling aloe cream?
  •   Yes, many booths had giveaways of Coach or Michael Kors purses. The target audience is clear and in many cases, disappointed that they didn’t win.
  •   Kudos to the SHRM booth for having extra padding under the carpet. Relief for the feet.
  •   If you’re going to use the scanner to collect leads, please take a few moments to learn how to use it. I showed two different vendors how to use their scanner. You’re welcome!

The nice person at CareerBuilder asked me if I wanted my picture on their roller coaster. I laughed, said of course, and waited for a real coaster. I did come up with the staged picture below before referring them to RollerCoasterHR.com. 

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