6 Tips to Make Your First Annual Conference Rock!

News Updates

So you’re finally going to SHRM’s National convention, congratulations! I attended my first last year and had an amazing time. The first time can be a bit overwhelming, so here are a few tips to help you get the most from your experience.

  1. Pre-Network. There will be thousands of HR professionals from around the world descending on Atlanta at the end of this month. My guess is most are on LinkedIn. Many are on Twitter and Facebook. Five of them might be on Google Plus. Follow HR hashtags or join pre-conference HR Twitter chats (#shrm12#tchat#talentnet#dthr#hrevolution#hrhappyhour, etc) to find and engage HR professionals ahead of the conference.
  2. Schedule: Know where your hotel is in relation to the conference center. Map it if you need to. Go early to get your badge and see how long it takes to get there. Add time to that for traffic and plan accordingly. Also, be sure to check the schedule ahead of time and flag sessions you want to see. SHRM has a great app you can use to manage on the go. Lastly, don’t be a hero and try to catch every possible session that interests you. You can reasonably get in 2-3 a day. Maybe four if you’re committed. Trying to catch a full slate of sessions every day will fry your brain and impact you ability to be successful with tip #4.
  3. Exposition Hall: Easily one of the most overwhelming experiences for SHRM newbies. There will be swag, there will be beer, there will be models pitching the latest HR tech wizardry, and most importantly – if we’re all lucky there will be hilarious swag videos by HR pros like Laurie Ruettimann and Dwane Lay. Bonus Fact: I learned last year that eating up to 23 bacon wrapped dates is not fatal. So, if that’s your thing – enjoy!
  4. Socialize: As valuable as the sessions are, the networking and connections you will make at the conference are every bit as important. There are lots of parties and events to attend. Don’t be a wallflower, these are your people! Get out and have some fun. You’ll make friends that will last a lifetime. I know I did.
  5. Hydrate: I suppose this is a fitting follow to #4. They call it Hotlanta for a reason (several actually). Depending on how much you try to fit in you likely won’t be eating full meals at traditionally scheduled intervals. Plan appropriately. Bonus Tip: If you’re a coffee drinker like most of us, be prepared for long soul sapping lines. You might even want to bring an emergency 5 hour energy or three.
  6. Learn: Okay this is obvious and not something you need a top 6 list to direct you to do. SHRM National is the largest congregation of HR professionals on the planet. The amount of knowledge you will encounter directly and indirectly is tremendous. Absorb it, take notes (I highly recommend the app Evernote with an iPad or whatever device you choose). WiFi will be available. If you’re torn between two (or more) sessions you should check and see if the one you missed has a hashtag for that particular session. That’s a great way to catch up on what is being shared after (or during) the session.
  7. Bonus Tip: Bring your charger with you and charge your phone any time you can. You don’t want to run out of juice at SHRM.
I hope this helps you make the most of your experience. I’ll be there with the SHRM12 Blogger crew so be sure to say hello.
--Lars Schmidt
NPR – Director, Talent Acquisition
Twitter: @ThisIsLars
Reprinted from the Buzz Site