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High Tailin’ it to the SHRM Annual Conference

June 7, 2011
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I’m getting ready to join some fellow HR peeps on the annual pilgrimage to the 2011 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition in a few weeks.  I admit I’m looking forward to hearing opening keynote speaker Sir Richard Branson and I predict that the closing keynote speaker, Michael J. Fox, will be inspiring and probably fairly successful at ‘connecting’ with the (10? 15?)20,000 + folks who will be attending his session (although he will forever remain Alex P. Keaton/Marty McFly in my heart).  I’m not particularly a big fan of the super-mega-ginormous-keynote-general sessions.  I tend to sit way in the back (like a HS juvie sitting in the back row of class?) and watch on the monitors, so quite frankly I might as well be sitting at home and watching on TV.  And certainly those ‘big names’ often sometimes miss the mark. But every now and again I’m pretty pleased when the keynote speaker gets it right and manages to tie their message  to applicable and meaningful HR content.

Charlie Judy over at HR Fishbowl had a good summary yesterday of why HR Pros need to attend the SHRM Annual Conference – with a tad bit of a firestorm (check it out).  I guess Charlie and I are simpatico.  I had the draft of today’s post ready to roll before I saw his post and gotta admit that his viewpoint pretty much aligns with mine.

I get value from the conference – or else I wouldn’t go.  Oh sure, I need to wade through a lot of feel-good motivational rah-rah-cheer-cheer clutter in the schedule, but I generally find several intriguing conference sessions occurring at any one time to choose from.  I take advantage of the Expo Hall experience by targeting the vendors I want to talk with if I’m considering a purchase.  And I spend a vast amount of time re-connecting with HR colleagues from around the country (who I may only see in person a handful of times per year), making new connections, and having coffee, drinks and dinner with anyone/everyone I can.

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I give the SHRM planning team credit for pulling this together.  Having worked as a volunteer in 2004 (New Orleans) and then serving as a volunteer committee co-chair in 2009 (conference bag-stuffing – OY!) also in New Orleans, I got a glimpse behind the scenes in the year leading up to the conference.

  • I have to applaud SHRM for soliciting feedback and working to improve the conference experience from year-to-year.  For 2011 they’ve committed to more practitioners presenting at sessions and after glancing through the conference program it seems they’ve moved a bit in that direction.  I don’t get too cranked up for a speaker when their only qualification appears to be that they have “CSP” after their name.  I’m quite pleased to say that one of my friends and Louisiana HR-dude, Mike Brady, is presenting a concurrent session on Tuesday.  I like him so much I’ve even forgiven him for using the phrase “Seat at the Table” in the name of his session. (love ya Mike!)
  • I like SHRM’s continuing and expanded focus on getting social media and social networking right.  Super props once again to Curtis Midkiff and the rest of the team at SHRM HQ for continuing to embrace and explore new ways of doing things.  Between the tweet-up which promises to be even bigger than last year’s event in San Diego (at which I won an iPad – thanks HRCI!) and the new Conference Mobile App there’s a focus on expanding the conference experience by tapping into the power of technology and social networks.
  • As a dedicated SHRM-ite and SHRM volunteer, I certainly enjoy chilling in the volunteer leader’s lounge, and having the chance to chat with various SHRM honchos from HQ.  I get to do my annual hang-fest with my pals from the SHRM Garden State Council because it’s the one time during the year we all get to see each other after first connecting at the SHRM Leadership Conference in 2008.

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So yeah, it’s pretty much a love-fest between me and the SHRM Annual Conference although there are certainly aspects I don’t enjoy –

  • elbowing my way through greedy swag-chasing attendees in the Expo Hall
  • lack of fast/easy access to coffee first thing in the morning when dashing to one of the 7 AM sunrise sessions
  • hit-or-miss wifi/phone connections
  • cumbersome conference bags (I don’t even take one anymore)

Is it the world’s greatest HR conference?  Probably not.

But it’s all in what you make it isn’t it?  I approach the conference with the intent to ‘get my money’s worth.”  So I gather nuggets and morsels from different sessions and I observe and think and learn.  And at the end of the three days, I ask myself  “Am I going home with MORE knowledge and/or ideas to improve myself or my organization?”    As long as the answer keeps being “yes,” you can count on seeing me in Atlanta, Chicago, Orlando…..

Who else is with me?  Anyone?  Is the SHRM Annual Conference on YOUR must-do list?

photo courtesy of SimplyHired

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. HR in BR permalink
    June 7, 2011 9:12 am

    I would like to have it on my “must do” list, but it wasn’t meant to be for me this year. I got to volunteer at one some years ago in San Diego. It was a great experience and I look forward to attending more of them in the future. Enjoy you time! I look forward to your tweets about it.

  2. Jerry Dropcho permalink
    June 7, 2011 5:35 pm

    Robin, so nice to hear nice things about the Garden State Council!!! I am the current State Director, and look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas!
    Jerry Dropcho

  3. June 8, 2011 8:18 am

    @HRinBR – we’ll miss you in Vegas! I’ll take pictures…

    @Jerry – I’ll meet you at the craps table… 😉

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