This past week I attended the SHRM Talent Conference and it was spectacular !! The keynote speakers were all solid and the concurrent sessions had depth and relevant content.
I love that people come to conferences to learn, gain skills and get professional development to do their jobs better. I also dig hearing speakers that motivate me, make me laugh and allow me to have a release from what I do on a daily basis. All of those facets of attending a conference are needed. Chances are you’ll even be asked to give a report back to your boss about the takeaways you had.
What if you missed the best takeaway when it was sitting right next to you?
For those of you who may not know, I’m an absolute extrovert who just loves being in a sea of new people. I see events like this as an opportunity to mingle and meet peers. I think we lose sight of the fact that people who practice HR are all around us during a conference. It seems that attendees are surprised when you attempt to make eye contact and say, “Hello.”
As in most conferences I’ve gone to, attendees flow past fellow attendees and people keep to themselves. They make sure to get a seat in the area of the room where the presentation occurs, and then they sit and wait to hear what the speaker has to share. Did you know that when you listen to a presentation, you remember 10% of what was said on average? Even the great ones !!
I have a much different approach to HR Conferences. I go to them to meet people. I understand that this isn’t the norm, and I’m good with that. What I’ve found, however, is when I meet new HR people and connect them with other new HR people, great things happen. During SHRM Talent, I met folks from all over the U.S. and from around the globe !! I learned different approaches, insights and also what they expected from the conference.
I also make sure to meet vendors and see what they do. I may use their services, but I also may not. The key to me was to see who they were and how they interacted with HR folks. If they were all about the sale, I remembered that. If they were about learning about the attendees and how to meet their needs to make their company better, I remember that too (and made sure to connect with them.)
You see, I can give you countless examples of why taking this approach to conferences matters. I have met people that I keep in touch with on a regular, if not daily basis, that make me a better human. They also make me a stronger HR professional. With them I have a whole set of resources available with the click of a button on my phone or laptop. With them I have a deeper appreciation of HR because they give me their perspectives on things. With them I have established life-long friendships that I cherish.
To be honest, I couldn’t tell you which speaker I was listening too when I met these folks. However, I am assured that I can reach out to any of them at any time to stay connected.
So, when you go to your next HR event whether it’s a local HR chapter meeting, a networking forum or the massive SHRM Annual conference, step back and notice the people. When you get their attention, introduce yourself and ask, “And you are ??” Trust me. You’ll be glad you did !!