Your Guide to SHRM 2019: Tips for Making the Most of HR’s Big Dance
Focus on yourself. You can’t pour from an empty vessel, and you won’t be able to make the most of SHRM 2019 if you’re out of gas the whole time. There are about a dozen spas in a 2 mile radius…just saying. ?
In case the session is packed or not what you thought it would be, you should always have a plan B or maybe even C for each time slot of the sessions to maximize your educational experience. If you do leave a session after it has started, be respectful, and leave quietly. I always sit in the back on a session I may be iffy about. – Paula H. Harvey, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, GPHR, VP of Human Resources/Safety, Schulte Building Systems (@Paula4Harvey)
Be prepared for full sessions and long lines. If you want a good seat at a popular event, you’ll have competition and might have to settle for a seat on the floor. And if a session doesn’t pan out, go for the Irish Exit.
Make sure you take plenty of business cards with you AND make sure you get business cards from the people you meet. If you are in a concurrent session you will be sitting around others in the session. You will have a reason to connect to someone in the future, if for no other reason than to perhaps get a piece of information you missed from the session. Make a note on the back of their card what session you met them in so you can reference that later. – Michael D. Haberman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, HR Expert, Omega HR Solutions (@MikeHaberman)
It’s 2019, and business cards still matter! If you have a great conversation with someone, don’t forget to share your contact information. Extra points if you share your session notes.
The SHRM 19 Annual Conference and Exposition is going to be A BLAST! Jeans, tie-dye and sneakers are perfectly acceptable. Check out the speaker line up and vendors ahead of time to make sure you don’t miss something important to you! The 7am sessions are good ones, so get up and get to the convention center on-time! Use Twitter. If you don’t have an account – make one now! Follow #SHRM19 and #SHRM19Blogger for all the great session nuggets, meet ups and other information. I’ve met so many of my great friends at the annual conference and through Twitter! – Claire Petrie, PHR, SHRM-CP, Talent Acquisition Manager, Remedy Intelligent Staffing (@_strclaire)
That’s right, you’ll find some of the best sessions are bright and early!
I rely on the SHRM Bloggers to provide extra insights and a sneak peek into the speakers, sessions and vendors: follow the bloggers and also follow the SHRM blog for SHRM 2019 posts. – Mary Williams, Regional Manager Business Operations and HR, Harbor Light Hospice (@conmkw)
- Schedule sessions beforehand
- Fit in breaks between sessions and recharge
- Be prepared to walk and sit a lot
- Bring business cards
- Expect full sessions, and have backup options
Navigate the expo floor
The expo floor brings together more than 600 vendors! It’s a chance to meet some of the major players of the HR world. If you’re looking for the right partners and tools to make your job easier (or want a break from conference sessions), plan a visit the expo hall.
Make a list of the things you’ve been thinking about at work that are too big for you or your team to handle, things you need help with, or areas you need additional expertise. Then, when you get to the SHRM expo, ignore all the giveaways, and spend your time looking at and talking with companies that actually have the ability to help you solve your problems. Another free pen isn’t going to change your outcomes at work, but the right vendor partnership can make a world of difference. – Ben Eubanks, Principal Analyst, Lighthouse Research & Advisory (@beneubanks)
The expo hall is a great opportunity for education and networking. You’ll discover solutions (and a few duds) and hopefully some inspiration.
If you’re like me, your first inclination at the expo might be to go straight for the free swag. ? Do NOT accept everything that vendors give. If you do, you’ll end up needing a whole new suitcase to transport tchotchkes that are likely to end up in the trash anyway. Instead, check out the expo floor ahead of time (online or via the SHRM events app) to prioritize your stops.
Most vendors will have a wide range of client experience around specific topics. Want to learn more? Ask them! And if it’s not a good fit, don’t be afraid to cut the conversation short and move on.
HR can be an isolated business function and it is essential to build a community online and in person to grow. We have a thirst for learning and use the conference to ensure we remain at the cutting edge of thought leadership in this space. As a tip, don’t underestimate the learning available in the Expo Hall, hundreds of relevant companies and services to learn about! – Ben Watts, CEO, wattsnext (@wattsnextBen)
There are way more vendors than you can even imagine, so make sure that you highlight those that you know you want to visit, and make time to engage in conversation around your business needs and how those vendors can support you. Remember that the vendors are there to build relationships, network, and ultimately find new customers. Be kind when you start getting the follow up emails and phone calls weeks and even months following the event. Even if you dropped your biz card (or let the vendor scan your conference badge) in the hopes of winning a new iPad with absolutely zero interest in their product or service, know that they are looking at your name as a potential customer. Your treatment of them when they contact you is a reflection of who you are, and who your business is. Make sure that you behave in harmony with those values. Even if you’re not interested in their product (right now), extend a professional courtesy. You’ll make much better use of your time (and theirs). – Kyra Matkovich, PHR, SHRM-CP (@KyraMatkovichHR)
Plan out your visit, and look at the Expo hall map ahead of time. You’ll have a few days to explore, so don’t overload yourself!
Look for vendors you currently work with and those who you’d like to know more about. And don’t forget to visit us while you’re in the hall – Bonusly, booth #505.
- Prioritize partnerships over free swag
- Manage giveaways
- Map out vendors ahead of time
- Use the expo as a learning opportunity
- Visit Bonusly in booth #505 ?
Take advantage of after-hours networking and entertainment
This year, the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo is in the Entertainment Capital of the World, Las Vegas. The conference and expo portion will be excellent, but don’t forget about everything else that comes with the experience, especially after-hours networking and entertainment.
The magic at a SHRM conference happens after the expo hall closes. The best relationships are facilitated at 8-10pm, not 8-10am. My advice…especially for Las Vegas? Attend after hours events. SHRM usually has a couple official after hours events that are worth attending (and are included in admission). Several larger vendors in the expo hall will also host (sometimes extravagant) after hours events that are sure to impress. But, if there’s not an official after hours event to attend…make your own. It’s Las Vegas. Don’t stay in your hotel room, sync up with a few attendees, and build relationships that will last beyond the conference. – Brett Farmiloe. CEO, Markitors (@BrettFarmiloe)
You can make so many valuable connections in a short period of time. Attend the many evening networking events sponsored by various groups. It’s a great way to connect with others in casual environments. This conference is in the “entertainment capital of the world” While the conference is the main purpose for you visit, don’t overlook the fact that outside Las Vegas provides so much to do and see. – Jeff Palkowski, MHRM, SHRM-CP, PHR, HR Sushi Bar (@JeffPally)
While you’re in Vegas, think about catching a show, eating some delicious grub, soaking in the local arts scene, and maybe rolling some dice. ?
Need some more inspiration for your time in Vegas? Check out Jeff’s Viva Las Vegas Top 25 List and SHRM-O 2019 Conference Edition Scavenger Hunt/Checklist.
The Thrillist’s Actually Cool Things to Do When Someone Visits Las Vegas is another great guide.
Sometimes, the best work done at conferences is chatting in the hallway or the lounge. This is one time where what happens in Vegas does not need to stay in Vegas. – Diane Fennig, PhD, Senior Consultant, The Human Capital Group (@FansofFennig)
This is your time to get out of your shell! Meet new people, but also give yourself a break when networking gets stressful. When you’re ready to re-engage, jump back in.
For more of Diane’s event advice, read her recent SHRM blog post, Prep Steps – #SHRM19.
Practice your pitch – You’ll be introducing yourself a lot. Be ready to tell everyone you meet the following info in 30 seconds or less: Your name, what you do, and why you are at this particular conference. Be genuinely interested in the people you meet – Dale Carnegie’s old advice definitely applies to networking at a conference… Your ability to drive an interesting conversation that isn’t all about you will be a breath of fresh air for your fellow attendees. Try the following: When you meet someone, repeat their name and use it in the conversation, ask open-ended questions, practice active listening, smile and ask targeted follow-up questions. – Katharine Zaleski Co-Founder & President, PowerToFly (@KZaleski)
Plan talking points ahead of time, not only about yourself, but industry trends, a recent workshop you attended, or why you can’t wait to see Lionel Richie live. ? Still want to learn more about conference networking? Read Katharine’s My 5 Tips for Networking at a Conference.
Where’s the party at? For VIP access to everything after hours at SHRM, check out Workology’s 2019 SHRM VIP Party List.
- Attend after hours events
- Take in the Las Vegas experience
- Make new connections
- Don’t be afraid to strike up conversations
Reflect on your time and follow up
SHRM 2019 will be a whirlwind, so you’ll also want to plan out what to after the conference wraps up, too.
Follow up and share the wealth – This is where the real fun begins. Connect with everyone you’d like to stay in touch with on LinkedIn and/or social media – when appropriate, you can use the notes you took to add a personal message that references something unique about the conversation you had! – Katharine Zaleski Co-Founder & President, PowerToFly (@KZaleski)
You’ve just met some of the best folks in the HR industry, so make sure you keep up the relationships you started! Send over a personal message to let them know that you appreciated meeting, and make plans to keep in contact.
Remember that the vast majority of the information you obtained during the sessions will be gone in short order unless you take good notes, refer back to those notes, and write down (i.e., build goals off of) a few take-aways from each session that you can potentially implement when you return to work. Engage in conversations with your senior leaders about what you learned and what may be a benefit to your company. Follow up with the speakers. Make sure you follow up with the other HR Pros that you connected with and with whom you likely exchanged business cards. Intentionally building relationships with your network is one of the best ways to continually learn and grow. Stop making excuses about how you “don’t have enough time.” After all, we are in the business of people, so make people your top priority – both inside and outside of your business. – Kyra Matkovich, PHR, SHRM-CP (@KyraMatkovichHR)
You’ll also want to retain the most important bits, so jot down notes in your hotel room, on the airplane, or wherever suits you best. Think about how to apply what you learned during the conference and how you can help those you met at SHRM 2019.
Don’t forget to recognize your leadership and team for sending you to the conference. Recognition is important!
- Reconnect with folks you’ve met through social media
- Jot down notes for yourself and colleagues (if you need a notebook, come see Bonusly in the Expo hall for a free one ?)
- Thank your company for sending you
Before you know it, you’ll be at SHRM 2019! It’s up to you to make the most of your own experience, so plan accordingly, bring your “A” game, and get ready for a great time this month in Vegas!
Did we miss anything? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Still need more information? Here are a few other helpful SHRM Annual Conference & Expo resources: