There is little doubt you’re already thinking about what clothes to pack for the forecasted weather in Atlanta, as you prepare to attend the SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition next week. As important as it is to know how to pack appropriately, you should also take some time to identify objectives and establish a strategy to get the most out of your time.
If you haven’t attended before, all it takes is a quick perusal of the concurrent session listing on the website to realize just how big of an event this is and how easy it is to become overwhelmed. If you’ve attended before, you know this is an event-packed few days filled to the brim with possibility. Regardless of your experience level, it doesn’t have to be intimidating. Simply follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to a rewarding, energizing and educational experience:
- Set objectives. Why did you decide to attend in the first place? Ask yourself this question: “I would view my attendance at the event as a complete success, if I walked away with the following:” This exercise yields your list of your objectives.
- Business Cards. Don’t forget to grab a stack and give them out! When you get a card, jot down on the card something about that person, their interest, and/or a reason to contact them after the event.
- Familiarize Yourself With the Layout of the Venue. Because the event is extremely impressive in the overall size of the venue required to host the conference and exposition, it is worth taking the time to create a game plan to ensure you don’t complete a mini-marathon between sessions. Try to map out your days. If you don’t, at least wear comfortable shoes!
- Exhibit Hall. It’s easy to get consumed with collecting all of the swag the exhibitors give out at the event. Be sure that you also select a small handful of exhibitors that help to satisfy one or more of your objectives. (Another tip: Box up that swag and send it home, so you don’t have to lug it on the plane!)
- Participate in Sessions. Engage yourself in sessions by asking questions and responding to the presenter(s); otherwise you risk day dreaming or (worse yet) start snoozing in the afternoon shortly after you consume your tasty box lunch.
- Make a Move. Pick a primary and then secondary choice for each concurrent session time slot. If, after 10 minutes of a session your first choice isn’t panning out and maintaining your interest, slip out and into the second session. If you don’t have a second choice of interest, stop by the Exhibit Hall and spend some quality time with a vendor that you wanted to get to know better. The crowds are considerably smaller.
- Socialize. The value is in getting to know people at this event. Whether you meet those that can assist you in solving your own challenges, someone you can offer your support or expertise to help, or just a peer that you can relate to, it is essential that you meet as many people as possible. You’ll never be in the presence of so many people at one time and in one place that have so much in common.
- Ditch the Co-Workers. I’m being sarcastic, but there is some truth to my comment. The best way to socialize (see #7 above) is to make yourself open to the possibility of meeting people. Don’t create a barrier by getting too comfortable with others you came to the event with.
- Take it Home With You. If your company paid for your trip, be sure to bring home a compelling story about the value you gained from the experience and consider sharing that value with your department and peers.
- Appearance. I started this post by talking about packing your clothes. Let me offer a word of advice on this topic. Don’t show up in ratty t-shirts and shorts. While you don’t have to be dressed to the nines, first impressions still matter. Business casual is the way to go.
I’ll be in Atlanta starting Saturday and would love to meet. Feel free to connect with me at @Irene_Hahn on Twitter or reach out to me on LinkedIn.