I, along with about 20,000 others, just finished attending SHRM19. It was a full, adventurous and exhausting conference. This isn’t new. Any HR conference of this scale is hard to wrap your hands around because there are so many options available for you to choose.
The common denominator in this sea of movement though is people. Whether it’s the thousands of folks passing by each other throughout the conference venue, or the people sitting next to you listening to a Smart Stage talk or full presentation. People are near you every minute of the day. In the midst of this swell of people, you think there would be a ton of interaction going on. Not really. Don’t get me wrong, there is some, but most people are going through the event seemingly alone. That is a broad generalization and I don’t want you to think that people are just automatons wandering aimlessly from session to session.
In an industry that is meant to be focused on humans, we tend to still focus on tasks, circumstances and situations. We have potential connections and resources passing us by literally at our sides, but the energy and effort it takes to greet each other intentionally is often crippling. I don’t think this is a matter of introversion or extroversion although that definitely plays a part.
I honestly think that we have been conditioned over our lives to set our face towards a destination so much that we don’t notice others. We may “notice” them if there’s some line we’re waiting in to buy coffee or an item from the ever popular SHRM store. However, others are seen as a nuisance or hindrance that is imposing on my time. If you don’t think that’s true, watch the people standing in line or riding the myriad of hotel shuttles and see how many of them are not connecting and talking to each other. The overwhelming majority of people keep to themselves and face forward.
Ironically, there is something that gives me hope in all of this. Pictures.
When you look at the thousands and thousands of tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram photos and Snapchats, there is one common theme . . . people. What is shared the most are pictures of the faces of attendees. It may be anything from a great speaker they enjoyed to a meal shared or a night out on the town. We share pictures of faces !! All of those wonderful experiences which show mainly smiling, laughing humans make up the mosaic of who we truly are as a society.
The pictures show you that people ARE connecting because they want to. It’s how we’re all wired. People want to belong and be acknowledged by others. It doesn’t matter if you’re someone who enjoys being connected to hundreds of people, or just a few. We weren’t meant to experience life or work alone.
The reason I love SHRM Annual Conferences, and honestly any HR gathering, is seeing people !! I saw so many old friends and made tons of new ones. We shared hugs, laughs and stories about our families, our jobs and our common bond of being in human resources. Each one of those encounters will have far more of a lasting effect than any session I attended. The rush of energy that happens when someone asks you to jump into a picture is wonderful. This is true because that image will capture the memory of the time together and will be a lasting reminder that the people you hung out with defined your time at the event.
I hope that this week you remember that you are not alone. You have peers all over the world who share the same field you do even though they’re in different places geographically and their role and company may not exactly reflect yours. Regardless, you have a connection that is always a click away.
Life, in all it’s facets, is about people !!