Sandusky, OH – The Kalahari Resort September 20 – I arrived at the Kalahari Resort at 11 PM local time, after a seven hour ride – and $15 in tolls across Indiana and Ohio. Upon our arrival, my traveling partner John Jorgensen, via the magic of twitter, has determined that there are a bunch of late-nighters from the state board still in the bar. So we decided to dump our stuff in the room and head for a beverage or two, after a long ride. As we headed to our room, who should appear but the infamous host of Drive Thru HR and VP of People Clues Bryan Wempen. After a little small talk with Bryan, we learn he is headed to the bar – we tell him we will be along shortly. Bryan responds, “Yeah after your 100 mile walk to your room.” Perhaps a bit overstated, as Kalahari Resort is a big facility, but it was about a 5 minute walk to the room.
Once in the bar, we hook up with Steve Browne – and many of the OHSHRM board members who are enjoying themselves. A couple other faces stand out in the bar – Mike VanDervort and Bill Boorman. A few beers, some conversation and loud music then off to hit the hey after 1 a.m.
Ohio SHRM Day 1
Like most conferences, this is a self contained event, that means you don’t have to stick your head outside, if you choose not to. The first session I attended was billed as an Opening Act. The speaker was Mark Stelzner and the topic Social Media & HR – Cutting through the Hype. I have had the good fortune to meet Mark a few times, however, this was the first time I heard him present. Mark is a skilled presenter and engages his audience very well. The content of his presentation was well thought out and eye-opening. He presented a lot of facts and information – but it was not dry at all. If you have a chance to see Mark present, I would highly recommend it. You will not be disappointed.
It is now lunch time and the conference official opening. This spectacle sets the tone for the event. Conference Chair Steve Browne unabashedly made his entrance in a darkened room to some head-banging HR music. If you haven’t seen it, you can check it out here. So following Steve, we heard from keynote speaker Simon T. Bailey. Simon, a former cast member of Disney, sports an infectious laugh and super-charged level of energy. Simon’s role was to engage everyone and create a buzz, while delivering his message of networking and getting things accomplished. Simon gets my recommendation as well.
These were the only two sessions I attended in entirety on Wednesday. I did post a couple things on the internet and visit with a group of old friends who had all assembled at the venue. As we chatted, Steve passed us by and made a seemingly snide remark about sessions going on. We continued to visit. It’s too soon to tell, but there is a possibility that a new Blog Talk Radio show may have come from these conversations. The co-hosts for this show are Frank Zupan and John Jorgensen – hmm.
While the conversation continued, the main ballroom was being transformed into an exhibit hall. This is no minor feat, as we had lunch in the room and were not out of there until sometime after one. But the vendors, the volunteers and the staff pulled it off. So it was off to the exhibit hall to look, eat, mingle, talk with resource partners, drink, talk, mingle, hold drawings, walk around and then it was time for a real dinner upstairs. Dinner and drinks…. and no animals were harmed!
Ohio SHRM Day 2
Day two, I slept in – didn’t make the early session –BUT my travel partner did. He is a trooper! The first session I attended was kinda of deja-vu. It was the same room with Mark Stelzner with today’s topic Making a Business Case to the C-Suite. This was another great presentation by Mr. Stelzner. His content and presentation were dead on. The only sad thing about this session is that Mark was heard to say he is contemplating throwing in the towel on doing speaking engagements. I hope this is not the case, this would be a huge loss for the collective body and knowledge of the entire HR community.
My next Thursday session was Your Employees are going Social. The presenter for this session was Mike VanDervort. Mike had one of the smaller breakout rooms, but it was packed. I thought Mike’s content and presentation were excellent. Mike is a well-known expert in both social media and labor relations. He married the two topics with some compelling information for the folks in attendance. My understanding is his encore session was equally well attended and received very positive feedback. This is a personal observation, I know Mike and would have expected nothing less from him – and I was not disappointed.
Dave was bad and skipped out of another session to visit with some old friends and talk with some of the folks working the conference to learn a bit from them.
The last session I attended on Thursday was put on by Bill Boorman. Bill lives in England but is quite involved in HR on both sides of the pond. This session was deemed eligible for GPHR credit. Bill’s session was edgy. Bill used Prezi in lieu of Power Point. Bill, who is also known for hosting TruConferences, did a great job of involving his audience in his session. Bill’s content, while global in nature, shows that things are really not that different in other countries. Bill also touched on some international subjects that would later be covered in China Gorman’s closing keynote address. I had not met Bill, let alone heard him speak, he truly is a thought leader in the HR field. If you get a chance to hear Bill or attend an event that he is attending, I would highly recommend this. Undoubtedly, you will find Bill on the HR scene in many places state-side.
In typical conference style, I left Bill’s session around 6:30 and found myself back in the big hall at 6:45 for dinner, a contest and a comedy show. In keeping with the rock ‘n roll theme for dinner, it was burgers, fried pickles (they were great), fried green beans, chips and some other things that I didn’t chase down. After everyone had a chance to dine, it was competition time. Throughout the conference, there were gaming stations around for people to compete in the game Rock Band. The highest scoring teams competed in front of the nearly 800 attendees. I am proud to say on of my buddies, Brad Galen from Indiana SHRM, was in the band that placed second.
With that competition complete, it was on to the main event. Heywood Banks was the entertainment for the evening. I had heard a lot of his material on the Bob and Tom Show. His show was a gut-buster. He had some outrageous stuff and didn’t go with the blue material. The highlight without a doubt was his song Big Butter Jesus. This was a hoot and is based on a true story. He was some of the best entertainment I have seen at any HR conference.
Ohio SHRM Day 3
This is go home day and I got up at 5:30 am to attend a 7:15 am session. I was going to be ahead of the game. I walked the ½ mile back to the lobby to take my belongings out to the car, only to find it was pouring outside. So the long walk back to the room to store my bag for later, I headed down to the session early and got to grab some coffee and visit with some folks. Before long, it was time for the “early” session. The poor fellow that had been dealt this unenviable time slot was Benjamin McCall. I really wanted to attend this session because I have met Ben, and have communicated with him often via Social Media. I had always had an inclination to think that Ben was a pretty sharp young man. Well after sitting though his session, I proved myself to be correct. This guy is going places. He is one heck of a presenter, sharp and on his A game. His presentation was very well received and had fabulous content, all the while Ben kept it light and entertaining. No doubt Ben will be speaking more in the days to come. If you get a chance to hear him present, I would suggest you not miss it. Good job Ben!
Next up was Paul Hebert and Influencing Behavior. Paul had the same room that Mike did and they were standing all over for Paul’s session. I was one of the folks standing. It did not diminish the content. Paul killed it. I was unable to send out any tweets given my position. I felt bad because Paul had some killer content and I had no internet service on my phone and couldn’t fire up my lap top, so I was cyber shut-down. Paul’s content was great, some of it almost clinical in nature. Paul knows his subject material well. He charmed his audience. Paul, I am sorry for not tweeting at your session, but you didn’t need me. I watched the tweet stream for Paul’s encore session, and they were loving it too. Go see Paul if you get a chance.
The final session before the closing keynote was with William Tincup. William was back in the Cypress Room; his session was titled How to Create User Adoption of HR Software. William is a very intelligent and insightful guy. This comes through in most of what he does. In his session, William provided some great insights into the process of finding, purchasing and implement various types of HR software applications. The information offered by William almost seemed above some of the folks in attendance. William provided some great strategies in dealing with software vendors. I hope people got what he had to say. It was all good. William, too, is on my short list of people you should know and hear speak. If you want to get to know him, reach out to him he is one of the most approachable people that I know.
Back to the main hall for lunch and the wrap up. I had a really nice lunch and got to sit with Kyle who is one of the three HR people from the Kalahari Resort. After lunch, it was time to wrap things up and Ohio SHRM called on one of the best people in business. China Gorman former COO of SHRM was given the podium. After sharing her life’s journey in the workplace, China gave the audience some tough talk and great advise. She urged them to be business partners and understand all aspect of business. Her presentation also had an international flavor touching on business opportunities throughout the world. She used some video examples to drive her point home. At one point I had to move close to a wall to plug in, so my laptop wouldn’t die. I looked around the room to see everyone riveted to everything that China had to say. China was a strong closer and brought the conference full-circle. She is awesome.
That was it. There were the thank yous and the congratulatory accolades. And there was one final matter – Ohio SHRM State Council Director Andrea Gurcsik had been conspicuous by her absence. It was announced that she was at a conference for her work in Arizona and could not attend. Late on Thursday, her boss told her to get out of town, get back to Ohio, no matter the cost and see the end of her state conference. Her boss really knew how to motivate and take care of one of his employees. That is probably one of the biggest take aways from the event – know your employees and know how to take care of them!
A big thanks to all of the folks from Ohio SHRM for being such gracious hosts. We would love to have a couple of your folks come learn and share with us next year in Illinois.