I’m SO excited for the upcoming SHRM Annual Conference and Expo coming up this year in Las Vegas! The last SHRM Conference I went to was in 2019. I knew that the conference experience would be “different” this year, but I wasn’t sure how and honestly -- and after weighing all my options and my personal situation, I decided to attend the conference virtually this year. Disappointed to not see all my people in person now two years in a row -- sure! But I’m committed to having an amazing annual conference this year as a #SHRMInfluencer and adapting to a fully virtual experience...While I know that this post won’t appeal to the masses (although there are some good tips in here for many attendees) -- I do hope that it helps those of you who are attending virtually or maybe are thinking about attending another SHRM conference virtually in the future.
1. Virtual attendee doesn’t mean that you’re on your own -- Find other virtual attendees
My first thought to myself once I decided to attend the conference virtually was to reach out to my community to find out who else would be attending virtually -- and starting to coordinate sessions and meeting up times. I’m not gonna lie -- at first, I gave a bit of a side-eye to the thought of coordinating calls and meetups with other attendees-- ‘Zoom fatigue’ is real. The truth, however, is - this is something that I’d do even if I was in person in terms of coordinating a time to catch up with colleagues, meeting with vendors. It just looks a little bit differently virtually -- meeting online vs. at a booth or coffee shop. In my experience, I have a couple of friends who will be attending in person and a friend in the same city who will be attending virtually. I have time set aside to connect with those attending in person and the friend in the same city and I plan to meet up in person (socially distanced and with masks) to connect live. Plan to block some time out for this.
2. Keep it Real -- Be mindful of your time planning before you have the “listen to your body” moments
A bit related to point 1 -- you’re not a robot. Under no circumstance should you feel obligated to sit in front of your computer doing back-to-back learning sessions. Don’t wait until you have to have the “listen to your body and slow down” moment -- be proactive and be mindful about your objectives, what activities you want to attend while at the conference. I find the voice to politely say “no” to events and meetings and allow for having to take more frequent breaks -- and remember, the virtual environment is a good reminder that you can use other ways to engage with people (agreeing to meet and connect with people outside of the conference via phone or video, inviting them to take a rest break with me or walk the exhibit hall during non-peak hours) -- AND you’re not limited to just the 4 days of the conference -- take the opportunity to plan this out in advance to times that work best for your schedule and time zone.
3. Do Plan Your Sessions
It’s easy to just go from session to session without a plan -- but just as I would advise you to select your sessions carefully in advance if you were attending in person - I recommend that you do the same for your virtual conference experience. I like to take into account things that may be on my project priority list or roadmap for completing, interesting topics that I want to get more curious about, or topics that I hear my managers and leaders bringing up to help guide the sessions that I want to attend. I also try to be aware of my own body clock. I tend to be an early riser with lots of energy and focus during the AM hours, and a little less focused in the afternoon. So I like to plan to go to an early session, the keynote, and then another session or two and then do my networking and exhibit hall during the afternoon and evening. I also set aside time to just take a mental break and check work and personal email. Personally for me - my “relax time” is free of checking emails or taking calls -- I try to make it time truly devoted to downtime and generally 5-15 minutes. Sometimes I do some mindful meditations and other times, take a quick walk or maybe step outside and grab some sun (or some time with the sun lamp depending on the time of year).
4. Stay Focused and Be Present-- the laundry can wait
Don’t get me wrong -- I’m ALL about multi-tasking - it's one of the perks in working from home or virtually. Set up a quick load of laundry, take the dog for a walk, throw a stew in the crockpot. Guilty of doing all of these things while working from home. Love it! However,. I would say that there is something to be said for being present for the sessions that you’ll select to attend and giving it your full attention. I like to take notes on my phone, tablet, or even paper (note-taking is one way I stay focused and engaged in a topic or session). If you need to step away -- step away and take care of what you need to take care of-- and then come back and give the session your full attention. You’re not going to be able to take full advantage of the session if you don’t give it your full attention, present, and in the moment.
I hope this list gets you going on how to make the most of attending a virtual conference! What other tips do you have to share or add?
I’m looking forward to connecting with you and others at #shrm21! Have a great conference!!!