This is version v9.0 of this post. As best as I can come up with this will be my ninth SHRM annual conference. In front of many of these events, I have written a post about what I have learned along the way and tried to share some of the things I have learned and share how to get the most of the event. I am sure others have covered this, so all I can tell you is if you read something repeatedly it’s probably pretty close to the truth.
Heading to the SHRM annual conference reminds me of the first time I went to Disney World. I was a father and a husband. I wanted the trip to be successful, so I read as much as I could about Disney World before we headed there. There are many parallels. The SHRM conference is one of the largest conferences held in this country each year. There are dozens of events going on day in, day out -all at the same time.
Therefore, I think it is imperative you have plan, and a documented plan. Fortunately, SHRM has made this pretty easy. By downloading the conference app, you can have access to all events, times, speaker bios, building layout – everything. By marking events you can create your own calendar within the app. Download the app NOW.
In keeping with your objectives at the conference, figure out which sessions you want to attend and add them to your calendar. Many of these events fill up and close. Don’t think you are going to walk up five minutes before the start of a session and walk in and sit down. When it comes to the keynote sessions, that is like attending a pro basketball or hockey game. There will be more than 15,000 people in the room. There will be jumbo screens, but if you have designs on sitting up front you will need to line up at the doors before they open.
I highly recommend that you block out two to four hours, at a minimum, to wonder the exhibit hall. You will see the latest and greatest things in HR in the hall. Here again, look through the vendor lists and figure out who you want to talk with, and find out where they are located
There are also events every evening. Figure what you want to attend and male sure you have made arrangement to attend. Sign up in advance, the events fill up.
Moving on from the conference and the sessions, the SHRM Annual Conference is the best networking opportunity you will have this year. I implore you to make new friends, meet new people, introduce yourself to everyone. I always use coach/bus time to meet new people. Your seatmates in sessions are new connections. They are everywhere. Even if this is outside your comfort zone – push yourself.
There will also be conversations going on, on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and Twitter. Even if you do not want to engage, be a lurker, follow the hashtag #SHRM17 and see what is being said on these social media platforms. You will find me mostly on twitter as @DaveTheHRCzar.
Having said all of this don’t be afraid to deviate from your plan. If you meet someone on the bus on a way to a session, and you and this person want to have coffee and chat – instead of attending a session, just do it. If you hear a speaker in some open area and they sound interesting and engaging to you – stop, listen and engage, it could be the best part of the conference. You will never know unless you stop and give that speaker a chance.
I hope you have a great conference. If you want to add me to your network reach out to me on Twitter or LinkedIn and we can connect. See you in New Orleans.