Is this your FIRST SHRM National Conference? If so, this post is directed to you. If you have been before you are welcome to review my thoughts, and add any helpful thoughts you might have in the comments section. I am told by a reliable SHRM insider that there will be a session Sunday morning for first time attendees, so you might check on that as an option while you are at registration.
Ok so it is your first National Conference, this is called THE BIG SHOW for many reasons, and it is BIG. In recent years the number of attendees has been from 12,000 to 14,000 +. Then when you factor in the speakers, the vendors, staff and the other hangers on the number can grow to about 15,000. So SHRM, takes over the town for a few days. If you fly in, I would guess that 25% to 33% of the folks on the flight are bound for the conference. The conference fills dozens of hotels (45 official hotels this year), and there may be as many as 60 coaches in operation shuttling conferences guest to various designations.
This convention is one of a few that can only be held in certain select cities, because they have enough infrastructure in place to support an event of this magnitude.
This conference costs a lot to attend, just in case you haven’t figured that out yet. Depending upon your conference fee, your travel, lodging and meals can easily tip over the $3K mark, so if your employer is sending you to this you should be prepared upon your return to explain the value proposition to them – what did they get for their three grand (keep this in mind as we go through this post.)
The pre-conference (Student portion) and other events start on Saturday June 21 and run through Wednesday June 25. Within the time frame SHRM is offering up hundreds (I am not sure of the exact number) of sessions. The sessions are wide and varied. You need a plan. What do you want to learn about? Who do you want to hear speak? What topics do not interest you and what sessions do you want to steer clear of. This is the plan. Get the conference planner, go on line or download the conference app when it comes out. Then plan your conference and work your plan, otherwise it will be sheer and utter chaos and you will not accomplish nearly what you need to, in order to provide value to your organization (remember that is why you are attending).
Hopefully there are some people at this event that you would like to meet. Whether it is an author, a speaker, an HR peer, me or Hank Jackson, include this in your plan. SHRM also does an interesting thing where you can get paired up with people you don’t know and share a meal with them. Some of your meet and greet plans might not come to fruition, but if you do not plan to meet these people it most likely will not happen. Do keep this in mind most people are very approachable and truly like meeting people. Also plan to see any HR colleagues who may be attending the event. That is always enjoyable. (I always have a huge list of people to meet and to see.)
The exhibit hall is huge. Plan to spend quite a bit of time wandering this floor. There will be over 1000 vendors in the hall. This may very well be where you will find that value I have been speaking of in this post. In the vendor hall you will see all of the latest and greatest stuff in the world for HR. All of these vendors want to talk to YOU and tell you about their stuff. Be courteous to all of them, but at least have an idea of some of the type of vendors you should be speaking to. You will find out what is new in this area, where the markets are going and what your company is or isn’t doing right. Also understand that all of the vendors you engage with, will most likely follow up with you. This, after all is why they are there. If you are not interested in any further information, you can very nicely tell them so, so that they don’t waste their time or your time.
Don’t forget to plan a little me time too. Whether it is taking in some local culture, via a restaurant or a night spot, or seeing a local attraction like umm WDW don’t deny yourself this – just remember the value proposition and bring it home with you. Enjoy the conference!