The SHRM Annual Conference and Expo is back! The last time I attended the conference was in 2019—which feels like such a long time ago—and that’s because it got canceled in 2020. So, I’m excited and looking forward to my third annual conference. Have you been seeing my countdown on Twitter? Lol.
Next week, from September 9th through the 12th, SHRM will be holding its 2021 Annual Conference and Exposition (SHRM21) in Las Vegas with the theme, “Now More Than Ever.” As we know, a lot has changed in our world since the pandemic started. It was quite interesting to see how many organizations sought the help of HR to stay in business when the world went into lockdown. Now, more than ever, HR is critical to successfully navigating the new world of work, and SHRM21 is an excellent opportunity for us to get the tools and resources we need to reshape the future of work.
Anyway, I’m so grateful to SHRM for another opportunity to attend this year’s conference as a member of the SHRM21 Influencer team. This means I’ll be writing conference-related content, such as blog posts and social media posts, to engage attendees before, during, and after the conference. Be sure to follow the hashtags #SHRM21Infuencer, #SHRM21, and #SHRMNMTE on all social platforms for regular updates from us.
This year’s conference is a bit different, though—there’s the option to attend SHRM21 virtually. For some people, this will be their first-ever virtual conference. It sounds like fun because, as a virtual attendee, you’ll have access to several learning sessions and activities from the comfort of your homes. But have you made plans for virtual networking?
Networking is a crucial part of any conference experience, but virtual networking can be tricky if you don’t prepare for it. Unlike an in-person attendee who has the option to chat with people, grab coffee and lunch with them, or exchange business cards, a virtual attendee doesn’t have that luxury. Since this virtual option is a new introduction to the SHRM annual conference, I figured it would be great to write a blog post that helps attendees navigate the networking experience.
To achieve this, I reached out to six people to contribute quotes for this blog post. Five are SHRM21 speakers (with virtual-only sessions or in-person sessions that will be live-streamed), while the sixth person is a SHRM staff member attending the SHRM conference for the first time. I’ve added direct links to the speakers’ profiles, so be sure to add their sessions to your schedule. In no particular order, the contributors are:
- Steve Browne, Chief People Officer at LaRosa’s, Inc
- Dr. Natalie Baumgartner, Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers Workforce Institute
- Marni Falcone, Managing Consultant at FMP Consulting
- Joe Rotella, Chief Marketing Officer at Delphia Consulting, LLC
- Alexandria Walker, Co-founder at Bee Sober CIC
- Chenai Kirkpatrick, Lead Advisor, Public Policy & Government Affairs at SHRM
I asked them to contribute their tips for virtual networking during SHRM21, and here’s what they had to say:
“Everyone needs to realize that networking is a business skill – not a job search skill. Building your own HR community is essential for you personally and professionally. Having this mindset will enable you to reach out and make connections virtually. These connections should remain active and intact long after the SHRM21 conference. The key tip I would offer is to know your ‘capacity.’ How many people are you comfortable having in your network?
Don’t be a collector – be a connector. Once you know that, you can start building your community and keep up with them consistently.”
“Networking is about making connections – while most of us have learned the skill of networking in an in-person environment, the pandemic has shown that we can still build connections virtually. My number one tip for networking is to join the conversation. Use chat boxes or Q&A features during sessions to express your thoughts and pay attention to who responds. Those small interactions can be the start of a more in-depth connection when you start to bring them over to platforms like LinkedIn, where you can continue the conversation.”
“Don’t let the virtual experience stop you from making meaningful connections! Here are three tips to get started:
- Be intentional. Review the conference speakers and their bios in advance. Proactively reach out, schedule time to meet, have a clear, mutually beneficial goal for your connection, and FOLLOW UP!
- Be confident. Making cold connections virtually can be intimidating. Be confident in what you bring to the table. Don’t be afraid to make the first move and put yourself out there.
- Capitalize on available opportunities. Take advantage of SHRM’s networking peer group events on Friday and Saturday that align with your industry and interests.”
“SHRM 2021 gives you the opportunity to network with business professionals passionate about HR from all over the world. To make the most of that opportunity, start your efforts before the conference begins. First, set a goal for your virtual networking efforts, like making inroads for a future position or learning and sharing with peers. Then, polish your online profile to accurately describe yourself and what you can ‘bring to the table.’ Craft some ‘elevator pitches’ you can use during sessions to engage with other attendees and invite them to join your network. Just remember, networking is a give and take. It isn’t just about what you want out of the relationship; it’s also about what you can offer.”
“In order to make the most of your virtual networking experience at the SHRM21 conference, it is really useful to understand the outcome you are trying to achieve for yourself and your workplace. With over 200 educational sessions on offer, you can tailor your experience to benefit your own professional development in HR while selecting sessions that benefit your team and organization. Now more than ever, it is important to stay up to date with the latest HR developments, and this can be done at SHRM21 through effective networking. Search people out, contact them via email, and connect with them on LinkedIn either before or after the event.”
“For the last year and a half, we have all found ourselves in many new digital workspaces and social circles. To be “social” in virtual environments, we have adapted and built new social skills. As a SHRM21 virtual attendee, I encourage you to be intentional and open. Be intentional with the people you would like to connect with. Start a conversation and be open to new perspectives. For every great connection you make, be intentional about following up and staying in touch because, before you know it, we will be together again in person…or virtually. Have a wonderful SHRM21 experience!”
So there you have it—the tips for virtual networking, or networking in general, during SHRM21. You shouldn’t miss out on networking opportunities just because you can’t be in Las Vegas. Using these tips above, you’ll be able to make meaningful connections with other attendees.
Thank you to everyone for sharing their tips on virtual networking during SHRM21!
If you haven’t registered for SHRM21, you can still register today. Save $150 off your registration fee using this discount code: SHRM21_INFLUENCER. When you register, you’ll receive an exclusive SHRM21 & Life is Good co-branded t-shirt for free. I love conference t-shirts!
I look forward to connecting with you during SHRM21. Follow me @OsasuArigbe for #SHRM21 updates.