What’s the Annual SHRM Conference like?

annual shrm conferenceLast week I had the opportunity to attend the Annual SHRM Conference in San Diego, California. It was a big surprise to be able to attend, and I gained some valuable insights that I can’t wait to try out at work. I was writing about my experience throughout the event, and if you’re interested, you can see everything on the SHRM10 page. Now, for those of you who haven’t attended, I’m going to talk about what the event is really like.

Bigger than you can imagine

Thousands (11,000, to be exact) of HR professionals all in one place. When the keynote sessions were going on, there were 12 giant screens set up all over the room so that everyone could see during the presentation. The conference center was probably half a mile long and took me more than ten minutes to walk from one end to the other at top speed. Just… Wow.

Expo floor is massive

I never realized there were so many vendors in our space. There were hundreds and  hundreds of booths dedicated to all kinds of things, from certification to payroll to background checks and more. And while I’ve heard stories about the mad rush to grab stuff, I still wasn’t prepared to see thousands of normal, everyday HR pros bounding down the aisles looking for something else to pick up and run with.

It’s a hit or miss with speakers

Nobody can ever quite tell how a speaker is going to perform. Some of them did amazingly well, and others just didn’t hit the spot for the crowd. I was very excited to see Steve Forbes speak, but it was mostly about finance and fiscal policy; that caused a lot of the HR pros in the crowd to do some uncomfortable shifting in their seats! I wasn’t really excited to see Marcus Buckingham speak, but his keynote was simply amazing. I’ve since started reading one of his books and can’t wait to put my hands on another.

Session content was a balance, too

Some of the sessions I went to were wonderful, and I took a lot of notes (and even wrote about some, too). Others didn’t turn out so well. I went to two or three sessions where the speaker read off of slides or just didn’t hit the topic the session was supposed to be about. That’s fine, when that happened I just left or started talking to someone in the crowd. I did my best not to waste any time during the event.

Connections-the name of the game

I’m not one of those people who networks for the heck of it. I try to have meaningful conversations with people I find interesting, and if anything sticks, then that’s fine with me. I had the opportunity to connect with some amazing people, including a former SHRM CEO, the former Chief Human Resources Officer at Yahoo, and more. It’s going to be amazing to see where all of this ends up!

The bottom line

If you are interested in going, it’s going to be a big expense. But if you can do it just once in your career, it might be enough to provide lasting value. Even if you’re not able to do it ever again (and who knows if I will be able to!?!), hitting it that first time is going to give you a lot of insights into our profession. And if you do decide to go, shoot me an email. I’d love to give you a few tips. :-)

Anyone else ever been? Have anything additional to say?

0 thoughts on “What’s the Annual SHRM Conference like?

  1. Dave Ryan

    Great comments, it does remind me of the first one I attended, and trying to grasp the magnitute of it all. You also need to attend the SHRM Leadership conference in November. You will have many of the same wonderful experiencess there. Both of these conferences energize you and send you back to your day job all charged up and ready to take on the world!

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