It’s about that time!
It’s about time to think about packing.
It’s about time to touch base with friends I haven’t seen in awhile.
And it’s about time to get excited about learning something new.
SHRM 2014 National Conference starts in less than a week, and it’s about time to get prepared for it!
If this is your first national conference, you are in for an awakening…this isn’t your everyday affair. You may have lots of State Conferences under your belt. Shoot, you may even have a Regional Conference in your memory banks but National?
National is a whole other animal!
May I suggest you come prepared?
Identify what you want to learn!
The SHRM National Conference website is a good place to start or, if you like to use your mobile, download the app! But don’t visit the site or figure out the app the the day you arrive or even the night before. Do it now, and identify what sessions you want to attend.
Trust me, if you wait, you’ll be overwhelmed and you’ll wind up selecting something that is convenient or that your coworker is excited about. This is no way to spend $1,600!
Plan your day before you leave your hotel room!
There is so much going on at National both before sessions start and after the final session of the day. Trust me when I say you’ll want to either go to a special breakfast or drop in on a happy hour reception and perhaps even attend a bigger event in the evening. If you don’t plan for these things, you’ll spend quite a bit of wasted time on the bus, in a cab, walking, etc.
I’m not saying don’t be spontaneous; I’m simply saying plan for spontaneity to happen as it probably will. You’re already carrying around that big SHRM bag…why not throw stuff in there just in case you want to change out of your conference gear, change your shoes, etc.? You know your phone/Ipad will be dead..don’t end up without a charger simply because you failed to plan on being out of your hotel room all day!
Have a Plan B!
Session seats are limited and if you don’t have a “second choice” lined up, you’ll find yourself scrambling and/or settling for something you weren’t interested in. Again, this is no way to spend your money!
Do something different!
As stated earlier, there is a lot going on at National. Whether you’re a volunteer leader, a certified professional, a participant from Guam or a non-HR pro lost in the swarm of people wearing I LOVE HR buttons, there is an event for you.
You may be bashful or perhaps the thought of going somewhere by yourself is intimidating. You may be an introvert and the thought of spending another minute with humans may suck the life right out of you but trust me, most of the events at National are well worth it!
It’s not about having a drink, winning a prize, or getting some free appetizers (although those are bonuses, for sure)! It’s about learning new things, meeting new people, and developing your network.
I bet you would benefit from meeting someone with shared work experiences, shared responsibilities, shared interests, etc. or, dare I say, I bet you would benefit from meeting someone TOTALLY DIFFERENT THAN YOU!
I trust your professional life could benefit from an additional resource in your contact list, even if that resource lives half-way across the country. That being said, I am certain the hour or two you invest in doing something “out of the ordinary” will give you a great personal or professional return.
Engage with strangers!
You may be lucky and work for an employer who is sending you and your coworkers to Orlando. Perhaps you live in an active HR Community and lots of people from around your town will be headed to this event.
So many of us stick in our own little circles – there’s a little colony of Alaskans or a plethora of Minnesotans or a clique of New Yorkers.
May I suggest you ditch them? :-)
I’m sure they’re fabulous creatures but here’s the deal – you already know them. You already spend time with them. Quit using them as a crutch to keep your head down and not strike up a conversation with someone new.
SHRM National brings over 16,000 HR professionals together under one roof…go meet some of them! Bring them into your HR network and put yourself into theirs. We are stronger HR professionals if our resources are diverse…and the only way to diversify our posse is to keep our head up, smile, engage and meet new people.
By the way, the easiest way to do this is simply sit down with a stranger and strike up a conversation. However, perhaps this is a great time for you to use social media to meet new people.
Do you follow someone on Twitter? Ask him/her if he/she is at the conference and arrange a time to meet “in real life.” Do you have a LinkedIn connection who you met years ago? If he/she is at the conference, find out where he/she is eating lunch and head over there! More than likely, he/she is eating with someone you don’t know…therein doubling the benefit!
Admit what you don’t know!
Let me tell you a little secret – no one at SHRM National knows it all; we are all there to learn something new. Some of us, however, don’t have the courage to admit we don’t know something, or that we are confused, or that we are overwhelmed with our work. When we do this, our minds are closed to learning…and our money will be wasted.
I’ve been to numerous conferences and the ones I’ve appreciated the most are the ones I’ve entered with a beginners mind. When I admit I am ignorant or simply confused, I am truly ready to receive what the conference offers.
That being said, may I suggest you approach National as if you’re a novice? Then, when you go to the sessions you have identified as being valuable, your mind will be open to receiving what the speakers have to offer.
In the end, it comes down to this:
You’re investing in something pretty cool - your career – so don’t waste it!
To read the originial blog post, please click here.