As the final day of a whirlwind known as #SHRM17 begins to wind down, I’ve spent some time reflecting on my recent experiences and comparing it to the carefully crafted and curated encounter I had spent hours planning prior to my departure. Anyone with a classic Type A friend can confirm for you that we are not able to easily enjoy events, especially if we’ve committed ourselves to some sort of responsibilities, without a master action plan. Flying by the seat of our pants is just not an option!
It should come as no surprise then, to anyone who has met me, that I spent a somewhat embarrassing amount of time developing a highly tactical plan of attack for my FIRST #SHRM17 conference, representing SHRM’s Young Professional Advisory Council (YPAC) and being a part of the SHRM Blogger Team. Unfortunately, since this I don’t live in an animated happily ever after tale with small woodland creatures to clean up my mess, most of that plan flew out the window quicker than you can say Tropical Storm Cindy.
So was my plan a total waste? Not entirely – we at least had a rough framework that provided an approximate list of goals and action items. Do I wish my plans had panned out? Absolutely not. From changing dinner locations to torrential rain downpours and event planning juggling, every sudden left turn led me to one enlightening, encouraging, and motivating experience after another. After many efforts collaborating on an approach for connecting young professionals had opportunities to meet (and so no one spent dreary evenings all alone!), the YPAC crew organized Meet to Eats, sent announcement and reminder emails, and posted an Official™ SHRM Message Board post to attempt to increase interest and registration for a young professional Super Session.
After much time spent planning, coordinating, and implementing, what, you may wonder, ended up being the most successful approach? One intrepid Young Professional, unrelated to the YPAC efforts, posted her own thread looking to meet up with some fellow young professionals while in NOLA. When I was lucky enough to glimpse this post and respond that the YPAC would love to attend as well, I had no idea I would stumble on what would become my tribe and de facto family for the upcoming four days in an unfamiliar city.
Through a series of email strings and many, many, MANY individual texting sessions, we spent our first night networking, connecting, and navigating through the complicated world of group messaging apps (give the Android users a break everyone in group text strings!) when we realized we all wanted to stay connected to each other.
While we never exactly intended for this sole, random post to have the impact it did, I saw friendships forming that will last far longer than just a few days. We helped each other navigate the daunting convention hall, juggle session schedules, compare notes, and dominate the expo hall. We explored the city’s cuisine scene, ate beignets in the rain, sang karaoke like no one was watching and one particular Texan danced circles (and circles, and circles, and some more circles) around everyone, and had deep conversations at dinner about the paths we wanted our career to take and the kinds of goals we envisioned for ourselves.
We even lobbied Tripp Crosby to get one member of our squad onto the stage for a Lip Sync Battle (yes, that was us -- #SHRMFamous). Was this all as I planned? Not a bit – but I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything – even an on-time flight home! Had I not by chance opened one of the Annual Conference & Exposition Community Digest emails and clicked through a few message boards, I might not be going home with more than a dozen new friends that I am beyond excited to watch as we grow and progress in our careers. We’re already counting down to #SHRM18 – see you in Chicago!