Picture it. Las Vegas. 2007. (Said in my best Sophia Petrillo impression). It was my first ever SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition. I was a little over a year into my first HR Management job. I’d never been to a conference of this magnitude, and I didn’t know anyone. I went to the Careerbuilder party at the Hard Rock (featuring the Barenaked Ladies) by myself. I ate alone. And drank alone. But I learned so much. I walked away invigorated and a little bit exhausted, with a suitcase full of tchotchkes from the expo and a head full of ideas.
Twelve years later, I am going back to Vegas, but things are different. I’ve been to the SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition almost every year since. And over those twelve years, I’ve built more relationships than I can count - and many friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. I’ve witnessed the change that social media has brought to the conference experience - and have benefited immensely from connecting with people offline.
So when someone asks me “what are you most excited about for this year’s conference?”, my answer is not the great line up of speakers or the armloads of swag from the expo hall - it’s the opportunity to once again reconnect with this progressive community of human resource professionals. It’s the opportunity to learn together by learning from each other. It’s the opportunity to see my friends and talk shop (or non-shop). It’s my annual booster shot that reignites my passion for this field and sends me home chock-full of ideas and motivated to make a difference at work.
My advice to you, as you start planning your conference experience is to make sure you build time into your schedule to intentionally connect with others. If you have to skip a session to go grab drinks with a bunch of your new HR friends - do it!! I guarantee that you’ll learn just as much and you’ll leave with the souvenir of an expanded network that you’ll be able to draw upon for years to come.