It’s almost upon us; that wild-frenzied time when HR professionals from across the US (and the world) travel to a VENUE that can accommodate 15,000+ attendees to get their HR groove on. The Expo Hall is chock-full of swag and the booze flows freely during the Sunday night opening. The SHRM bookstore is loaded with thousands (thousands!) of titles for review, immediate purchase or shipment. The sheer volume of content and number of sessions is overwhelming but, fortunately, with some pre-work you can plan your educational experience so as not to end up arriving at the convention center for a 7 AM session and only then wondering “what do I want to see?” (download the conference app here to plan your daily schedule!).
It can be very easy to slog through the days intent on gobbling up HRCI credits just like Pac Man gobbles up blue dots. Up at 5:30 AM; shuttle to convention center; session…session…session. Box lunch. Session…session…session. Shuttle back to hotel; collapse in bed. Repeat.
Please breathe. And adopt a simple mantra:
“I will be curious.”
- I will visit with the vendors in the Expo Hall. Even if you have no intention of purchasing a new HRMS product, employee referral software or employee recognition solution for your company you can learn a lot if you have conversations with the reps at the booths. Ask the vendor reps why their product or solution is relevant/needed in 2014. Inquire what HR or organizational issue it is designed to solve. Probe for clarity on how their particular solution or service could help you deliver outstanding HR results. You should be able to walk away armed with insight, research and information that can help you forecast and plan – if not for today then certainly for the future.
- I will expand my HR Knowledge. Perhaps you work in Employee Relations and day-to-day you’re not dealing with recruiting and talent acquisition so you figure there’s no need for you to check out sessions on employment branding or social recruiting. But you should.
- I will plan for my future. It’s possible that your HR career is in the early stages; with just a few years under your belt your focus has been on solidifying your foundational HR knowledge. Reach up – and out – for high level content; you may feel you’re not in a strategic role today…but you are making plans to get there!
- I will purposefully connect with others. Opportunities to expand your network exist everywhere at the conference. Start a conversation with the HR pro waiting for her caffeine fix in the endlessly long line at Starbucks (and it will be long), say “hello” to the attendee sitting next to you in a Mega Session, and commiserate over your aching feet with a fellow traveler while riding the shuttle back to your hotel. Make some friends, exchange business cards and partner up with someone to attend a vendor party. Want to know where the parties are? Check out this guide from Jessica Miller-Merrell at Blogging4Jobs.
If attending this year’s conference is not in the cards, you can still follow the twitter hashtag #shrm14 and join in the conversations from the comfort of your home or office. And make sure to follow (and connect with!) the 2014 SHRM Annual Conference Bloggers.
I hope to see you there; let’s be curious together!