Random Thoughts as We Get Out of Town After SHRM 2012 in Atlanta

Here’s a sobering thought: I’ve been to so many SHRM annual conferences that I have forgotten how many I have been to.

I was trying to count and thought it was nine (9), but the 2012 bash in Atlanta is actually eight (8) — two San Diegos, two Las Vegases, one in Washington D.C., one in New Orleans, and one in Chicago besides this year in Georgia. Still, I keep feeling I missed one somewhere.

Regardless of the count, that’s a lot of SHRM conferences and a lot of General Session keynote speakers. I’m a pretty slow learner, but here’s what I have learned from nearly a decade of attending these national gatherings of the HR tribe:

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  • SHRM 12 in Atlanta is one of the better ones I have been to. I don’t think Atlanta tops the years in Las Vegas (2007 and 2011), but it’s up there. As I wrote earlier this week, Atlanta probably had the best group of big names speakers from top to bottom, and, there seemed to be a good vibe with great energy (and that’s not always the case, as we saw in New Orleans in 2009).
  • It’s a huge organizational effort to put on an event like this, and SHRM probably doesn’t get enough kudos for doing it. I’ve been known to be critical of SHRM (the national bureaucracy) over the years, but they don’t get enough credit for staging something like this. Geez, just the logistics of the bus routes and schedules to get everyone back and forth to their hotels is like organizing an army for battle. SHRM’s staff does a great (and largely unappreciated) job in making it all run well and on time. They deserve big kudos for pulling these events off year after year in cities and halls all over the country.
  • I wish I had spent more time this year in the Exhibition Hall. I was stretched a little thin here in Atlanta — editing, blogging, reporting, drinking, partying, and (occasionally) sleeping — so something had to give, and that was time in the Exhibit Hall. I really missed seeing all the booths, new and improved products, and HR pros running around scooping up all the free stuff, and I’m sure my insight into SHRM 12 is a bit less than it should be because I missed out on all of that.
  • Atlanta is a damn good conference town. I dread next year in Chicago, with its grossly over-priced room rates and hotels that are spread out a good distance from the convention center, and thankfully, Atlanta was nothing like that. Here in the Capital of the New South, the hotels are plentiful and close to the World Congress Center (where SHRM 12 was held), and there’s lots to do in the downtown area around all of that. With the exception of a downtown traffic gridlock at 6 pm Monday when I was trying to get to a dinner out in Vinings (with an assist from a clueless cabbie I was trying to guide), it was generally pretty easy to get around. You can’t underestimate the value of that.
  • Bette Francis, incoming SHRM’s chairperson-designate, is going to have her hands full. Jose Berrios, the outgoing SHRM chair, has left his predecessor a bit of a mess with mangled relations with the SHRM Members for Transparency group. Berrios has pretty much stonewalled the Transparency group and seems to not take their concerns seriously. That has now led to the SMFT Group deciding to run a slate of candidates for seats on the SHRM Board of Directors — a messy, noisy, and (possibly) divisive prospect that will play out during Bette Francis’s term as Board chair. Thanks Jose; your chronic inability to sit down and have a reasonable adult conversation has left a ticking time bomb for the lady behind you.
  • Social networking was a big SHRM 12 Atlanta trend: If there’s one overarching trend from here in Atlanta, it’s the role that social media and social networking has taken within the SHRM annual conference. From the success of the wildly popular social networking lounge (The Hive) to the fun and trendy bloggers lounge that seems to have superseded the press room in media importance, social media seems to be on everyone’s minds and in their hands. It’s a trend that seemed to blossom last year in Vegas, but roared into everyone’s consciousness here in Atlanta. Who knows where it will be next June when SHRM gathers on the shores of Lake Michigan?

Yes, next year SHRM’s annual conference and exhibition will be at the McCormick Center in Chicago from June 16-19. That should make for a fun Father’s Day in 2013, and, a bunch of new and different trends and story lines. Then, as now, TLNT will be there to tell you all about it.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


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