It’s no lie that attending the 2021 SHRM Annual Conference and Expo for the first time can be overwhelming, but can you imagine what it’s like being a student at a SHRM Annual Conference and Expo for the first time? This was a reality for me back in 2015, but I was lucky to be attending with a group of my classmates; not all first-time attendees and/or students have that same opportunity. A few weeks before we left for the conference, our instructor met with us to give us some tips and tricks for how to have a successful first conference. As someone that likes to share best practices, I thought it would be beneficial to share some of those suggestions with SHRM readers.
- Pre-plan your schedule: Ask yourself what you want to learn and look for corresponding sessions. There are over 200 sessions to choose from, so research carefully. Always have a backup session for each time slot as well, as sessions can fill up; especially if capacity has been reduced due to COVID-19.
- Download the SHRM Events app on Android or Apple: Once you have your sessions selected, download the app and add them to “your schedule.” This doesn’t actually register you for the session, but it will help you stay up to date if anything changes.
- Attend a conference orientation: Make sure to include an orientation to your schedule. Conference orientations are important because you have the opportunity to uncover how to make the most of your conference experience from a conference veteran. This is also the perfect opportunity to meet other first-timers and get a clearer picture of what to expect.
- Pay attention to conference blogs: There is a group of SHRM Influencers that have spent time writing blogs similar to this with tips on attending the SHRM Annual Conference and Expo, what sessions to attend, what to pack, etc. There are even blogs where speakers and exhibitors are interviewed, which could give you a better idea of sessions you may want to add to your schedule. You can see all pre-conference blogs here.
- Top five things to pack: Make sure you add these things to your suitcase or stop by a convenience store once you get to Vegas!
- Snacks and drinks/re-usable water bottle - these items can be very costly at the convention center, so it’s best to bring them with you.
- First aid supplies (i.e. band-aids for blisters, pain medications, disinfectants, etc.) – These items could also be costly at the convention center, and they are always good to have on you just in case.
- Comfy shoes and a sweater – The convention center is LARGE and you will do a lot of walking. Make sure you wear comfy shoes so you don’t need those band-aids for blisters. Also – bring a sweater because they usually crank the A/C way down since it’s so hot outside.
- Business Cards (or connect with me cards) – You will do A LOT of networking at SHRM annual. Make sure to bring some type of business card or a to connect with me card with your contact information on it so you can connect with people you meet post #SHRM21
- Portable phone charger – The conference will start at 7 AM on most days and you may be out networking until late, so bring a fully charged portable phone charger so your phone has plenty of juice all day long.
One additional thing I’d like to plug before wrapping up is that this year, SHRM has an actual student track! I highly recommend adding each of these sessions to your schedule so you can network with other students attending the conference.
Session 1: Thursday, September 9, 2021, at 9:45 AM - The Future of Work and How SHRM Can Help Maximize Your Potential presented by Dr. Alexander Alonzo and Dr. Vernon Williams, both of SHRM. This session will be presented both in-person and virtually.
Session 2: Thursday, September 9, 2021, at 11:45 AM – HR Careers Connections: Pathways and Perspectives presented by Justin Davis, Mona Dine, Daniel Horgan, and Ophelia Yan. This will be a virtual only session.
Session 3: Thursday, September 9, 2021, at 3:45 p.m. PT– What I Wish I Knew – Emerging Professional Insights presented by Crystal Granger, Rebecca Rowe, Kirk Wyman, Claire Petrie, and Amanda Brunson, all from the SHRM YPAC. This session will be presented both in person and virtually. Following this session, we will all go together to the Opening Reception in the Expo.
Session 4: Friday, September 10, 2021, at 12:15 p.m. PT – Earning Your SHRM-CP: Testing Tops for Students and Early-Career HR Professionals presented by Nancy Woolever and Demetrius Norman, both of SHRM. This session will be presented both in person and virtually.
Session 5: Friday, September 10, 2021, at 2:00 PM - Landing Your Dream Job presented by Rebecca Rowe from the SHRM YPAC. This will be a virtual-only session.
Session 6: Saturday, September 11, 2021, at 12:45 p.m. PT – Developing the Next Generation of HR Professional: Career Insights from SHRM’s Executive Team presented by Mike Aitken, James Banks, Sean Sullivan, and Wendy Safstrom, all of SHRM. This session will be presented both in person and virtually.
Session 7: Saturday, September 11, 2021, at 4:00 p.m. PT – Building Your Professional Brand presented by Claire Petrie from the SHRM YPAC. This will be a virtual-only session.
I hope these tips and tricks have helped you prepare for the SHRM conference! I look forward to connecting with you all at SHRM National from September 9 – 12, 2021! Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter in advance by searching for @TheHRPanda! Happy conferencing!