In just twenty short days, a couple thousand of my closest HR friends will descend upon Washington D.C. for the annual Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) conference. Having been lucky to attend a few of these gatherings over the past few years, I think it’s important to share a quick list of tips to help prep for “The Big Show”:
1. Begin with the end in mind: Do you have a particular problem that’s bugging you? Are you looking for an elusive answer to that question in a relatively safe environment? Are you attending to maximize your learning? Great! The conference will either get you some answers or credits for your certs. Either way, you’re going to want to try to get some answers. That helps set up point #2.
2. Do a bit of prior planning: By now, you should have received a list of all the sessions, times and locations. Take a moment to plan your list of must-attend sessions and maybe attend sessions. You’re going to want to keep your calendar open in the remote chance that the session is full or cancelled. Don’t be afraid to attend a session that is out of your comfort zone, that’s where we do our best learning.
3. Do make it a point to go to the 7 a.m. sessions: Want to know why? Because the audience really wants to be there and the speakers are going to do a kick-ass job in that time slot. Don’t believe me, attend one and then find me and tell me I’m wrong. I’ll be easy to find (especially if you’d like to tell me I was wrong).
4. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a sweater: You’re gonna do some walking and D.C. in the summer is hot and humid, but the convention center is going to be cold. Trust me on this one.
5. Introduce yourself to the people sitting next to you: This is networking on steroids. It’s easy and you never know who you’ll be sitting next to in the session.
6. Please leave constructive suggestions on the surveys at the end of sessions: I get it, you paid good $$ to be at the conference and you have high expectations, don’t take it out on the survey anonymously. Critiquing the speaker’s choice of attire is lowbrow and cheap. Every one of the speakers pays a bit too much attention to the negative comments. Resist the urge to trash them and instead offer some pointed advice instead.
7. Be nice to the vendors in the hall: They’re working (just like you) and are people too. Every year there’s one attendee who tries to take too much crap from the booth, and the vendors pay attention to that behavior. Don’t be that attendee.
8. Say “Thank You” to the volunteers:This goes without saying, but it’s a nice touch and it will make the volunteers day.
9. Use the Social Media tools, but don’t be consumed by them: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and SnapChat will be blowing up, but don’t be “anti-social” by not paying attention to your surroundings.
This is going to be a great conference. You’re going to learn, meet new peeps, and have a great time. And while points are merely suggestions, if you plan accordingly, you’ll maximize your conference experience.
Now I need to go find my bulletproof undershirts for Monday and Tuesday morning in the odd chance that someone will find me and complain… just kidding. However, I promise those 7 a.m. sessions are going to be awesome.