The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Annual Conference is a month away. This is the largest gathering of HR Professionals on earth and a seminal opportunity to network, find new ideas and gather certification credits.
I attended my first SHRM Annual Conference in 2008 in Chicago. Having come from the world of Information Management, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people in the Human Resources profession who were dependent upon this annual industry event to fuel their career development. This conference was the cornerstone of the profession for 4 reasons:
- To achieve re-certification credits
- To hear from industry thought leaders
- To understand the latest outsourced solutions in the space
- To rub elbows with people who understood the daunting responsibility of being an HR Professional
My first five years attending the SHRM annual conference were spent in the exhibitor hall. It's a tough job.... you stand on your feet for 10 hours a day, introduce yourself to 1,000 people and do your best to make conversation with strangers seem interesting... all while wearing an uncomfortable logo-ed shirt.
If I am being honest, I recall the experience of working a vendor booth to be extremely challenging. Those you seek to engage in conversation are politely disengaged. Most people wander the Exhibitor Hall to grab a few stuffed animals for their kids (I don't blame them). But, in every session I made a genuine connection with someone. They had a problem that needed fixing and I believed we could fix it. The exhibitor hall starts as a numbers game but it can produce life long partnerships.
The following year in San Diego, My boss allowed me to use his badge to attend a speaker session. I got there early and sat next to a woman who immediately engaged me in conversation as if I were her peer... this never happened in the exhibitor hall.
A light shined upon me.....
If I was going to be a salesman in the Human Capital Management space I was going to stop selling and start understanding every nuance of the HR Profession.... I went all in!
I discovered that the socially protected Human Resource world had a whole team of advisers who were sharing their lives on social media.
I read a post written by Lance Haun on a blog hosted by Laurie Ruettimann, I was astonished by the degree of candor and transparency. In the same way I wrote fan letters to rock stars, I wrote Laurie an email asking if I could contribute to her blog. When I told her the subject matter I had in mind, she said she would post it the next day.
10 years later, I've spent half a decade on the SHRM Social Media team. Curtis Midkiff had a vision to bring together a diverse group of thought leaders who were lead by Charlie Judy, China Gorman and Jessica Merrell. Their mission was to provide an alternative voice to those attending the conference and a lens to those who could not.
The SHRM Blog Squad now thrives under the leadership of Mary Kaylor. Our opinions vary, some of us are experts, others are hacks and there are those of us who are simply proud to be part of the HR Circus!
I recall a morning in San Diego after working a booth for several hours. My wife sent me a picture of my daughter in her Snow White costume enjoying her first visit to Disneyland (which I was unable to witness in-person). I remember at the the time thinking I should show that picture to the 100's of HR Professionals who rolled their eyes at me when I approached them in front of our booth in my ugly shirt.
When you board the plane to visit The Big Easy this summer, keep this in mind.....
1. Your comfort zone is your enemy
2. Everyone has something to teach
3. Vendors are people too
"Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right."
- Jerry Garcia
See You in New Orleans!