Las Vegas Perspective: The Real Value of Attending a SHRM Conference

I got into a really good HR conversation yesterday at SHRM 2011 in Las Vegas. The conversation wasn’t at a session or about a session or with someone I even knew – and to me this is the real value of an event like SHRM’s national conference.

I’m sitting down, having something to eat, and I strike up a conversation with the guy sitting next to. He’s from Dallas, TX, and we go through the small talk stuff – Mavericks rocked this year, yeah it’s hot and muggy, my brother in-law lives in Frisco, etc. Come to find out we share some similar background of both having past work experience of working in the casual dining industry – which leads to a really cool dynamic conversation about how HR and Operations work best together and how to make that happen.

The details of this conversation really don’t matter – but why it happened does.

Build yourself a new network

There are more than  17,000 people are at this conference. It seems like most are here to go to the Expo Hall and see what cool HR products are out there – and there are a ton — or they’re here to get continuing education credits and attend sessions. Here is where there is a huge miss!

I see way too many thousands of HR Pros here that hang with their own tribe and don’t venture outside of their tight network. I’ve been here for two days and have met new HR Pros and made connections with people in 10 different states, multiple industries, and in multiple HR disciplines. My social/professional network in HR has expanded exponentially — and that is the real value of attending a conference.

So, here’s my challenge to you.

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Today, tomorrow, or the next conference you attend, challenge yourself to go out of your way to purposely go out and introduce yourself to a HR Pro you don’t know, and purposely begin to build and expand your social/professional network.

It doesn’t have to be someone in your same industry and your same career path – in fact sometimes this isn’t even the most valuable connections you want to have. You’ll be amazed at the results – maybe not with just one meeting, but as you go out and do this over and over you’ll begin to see how this expands your view of HR in general.

It used to be that you were only as strong as your weakest player. Today, you are as strong as your strongest connection! Go get stronger.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


2 Comments on “Las Vegas Perspective: The Real Value of Attending a SHRM Conference

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more, Tim! I did that very thing, even sitting by myself at lunch and breaks so others would sit at my table. It’s funny how small of a world HR really is, more than once I met people with connections close to mine (location, friends, etc.). For my first National conference, I not only got a lot out of it but met a lot of great people.

  2. Great suggestions, Tim.

    A really easy way of doing this even for introverts is to make sure you attend all of the meals and refreshment breaks and then look for a table where about half of the chairs are occupied. Ask if you can join the people already there. They’ll almost always say yes and were likely in your position just moments before.

    You all have a couple of items in common: the food in front of you and the conference you’re attending. So conversations are easy and non-threatening and likely will lead to great things, as happened with you.

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