How To "UnPlan" For Annual Conference



“Life Is What Happens When You’re Making Other Plans” ~ John Lennon

This is one of my favorite quotes by John Lennon.  I think of it almost every year when I attend SHRM’s Annual Conference & Exposition.

You don’t need me to tell you it is a conference like no other.  The learning opportunities are second to none.  I look at the speakers and always feel honored to be among them.

While education is the core, it is only part of what makes SHRM Annual so spectacular. It is an opportunity to meet up with, as Steve Browne would say, other members of our #HRTribe.

So most of us begin to plan for the conference long before the conference itself. And that starts with what sessions to attend.

This is an opportunity for professional development. It is also important that we bring back practical information that we can use at work so that those who paid for the conference appreciate the value of their investment.

In between the sessions that we select, we schedule people to meet. It is not only those we have not seen since last year, but also those whom we “know” from #Nextchat and can’t wait to meet live. (On a personal note, I love our #Nextchat community!)

When we arrive at the conference, we already have a full calendar.  But then we realize there is even more to do than we had thought.

So we do but more planning. We add more educational opportunities, meet-ups, parties, etc.

Eventually, it hits--pure exhaustion. So now we begin to take things off the calendar. Of course, there is planning when it comes to undoing other plans.

So we skip a session that we had thought would be of value, but in the moment we need relaxing more than we need learning. We pass on meeting someone we had wanted to meet because in that moment we just need to be alone.

The amount of planning that goes into this conference by SHRM’s conference planners is enormous.  I cannot imagine attempting it, let alone doing it.

But as attendees, we don’t need to do quite so much planning.  Of course, we should plan, but, please, don’t over plan.

Leave some space so that you have time for the unexpected. And, expect the unexpected.

Leave some space so that you don’t flame out.  The conference does not end Tuesday night--so much is waiting for you on Wednesday.

Finally, leave some space just “to be” so you can “take in” the conference. For me, I find the conference rejuvenating when I relax and simply feel the experience of it.

So my plan is not to plan too much.  After all, part of the conference happens when you're not making--or fulfilling--other plans.


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