SHRM16!! It's right around the corner!
Are you going? If so, have you thought about how you're going to go about it?
I know that seems odd but trust me on this one, if you're going to a national conference of this size, you need to think about it before you arrive.
Over the years, I wrote a few posts about SHRM National: a few of my favorites to help you prepare are as follows:
I've got five national conferences under my belt now...and while many HR Pros can double that or more, I think many of us will agree on the following advice:
1. Download the app.
The SHRM16 app is a Godsend. With it, you'll have a map of the convention center, a handy AND thorough list of all the sessions and their locations, bios of presenters, social calendar items, contact numbers, etc.
2. Have a strategy.
If you think you'll wing it day by day, you'll quickly become overwhelmed and won't get your money's worth. I'm not saying you can't be flexible with your schedule! Rather, I believe you need to identify one or two sessions per day that you definitely don't want to miss, and then work around those priorities.
I also think you need to identify one or two vendors you want to learn more about and make arrangements to meet with them. Don't be swayed by the endless swag in the Expo Hall or, worse, stay away because of aggressive "selling." Visiting the vendors is about getting to know products and services so you can be more valuable to those around you when you get home. (By the way, it is easy to meet one-on-one with vendors; contact them via social media and/or from their website...they will be happy to set aside some time with you.)
3. Live outside of your social circle
While I am an advocate for meeting with your local colleagues for a drink or two, especially since you rarely have time to do so during a normal work week, may I suggest that spending every moment of your free time with them will cost you in the long run?
Instead, make the most of your time away and diversify your professional network. Strike up a conversation in the coffee line, sit and talk with a stranger on the bus, or pro-actively engage in discussions with those around you before or after each session.
Trust me, there is ALWAYS something to be gained by another HR Professional, and most of us are willing to share what we know and what we have. (In 2010, I walked around and asked people if they would be willing to share their social media policies with me...I ended up with nearly 30 examples and just as many new colleagues and friends.)
4. Meet the speakers who inspired you, taught you something, or could be a future resource.
I can't speak for every presenter but on behalf of many of us, we want to know we offered something of value. That being said, take the time to meet the speakers in person or, at the very least, connect with them online and let them know what you liked, what you gained, what you still wish to know.
Social media...and the internet in general...allows us to connect with people we previously didn't have access to. Connecting online is easy! It takes but a moment and is virtually intimidation free, and the rewards for both parties far outweigh the effort!
5. Meet the volunteer leaders from your community (or outside your community).
The National Conference doesn't just offer great concurrent sessions and seminars; it also offers opportunities for volunteer leaders to get together. This is a great opportunity for you, the "average Joe" to meet your local volunteers. Better yet, take the time to meet many of the other stellar volunteer leaders and find out how you can give back to your HR community!
My previous year's posts offer some other relevant advice so I hope you take some time to glance over them. In addition, my fellow SHRM Bloggers have shared their insights so take a moment or two to read their stuff elsewhere here on the terrific SHRM Blog.
I'll be at #SHRM16 from Saturday - Wednesday; if you're interested in meeting me in real life, let's do it! I'm presenting a pre-conference session, The Tragedy of No HR Strategy http://annual.shrm.org/sessionplanner/session/18409, and on the Smart Stage with The Purpose of HR http://annual.shrm.org/sessionplanner/session/19742 or you can give me a shout via Twitter @leadingsolution.
In the meantime, safe travels, enjoy yourself, and learn, learn, learn!