SHRM Las Vegas Wrap: The Good, The Bad, and The Swag

The SHRM annual conference is a wrap here in Las Vegas, and usually by this time in the conference, I’m a blubbering, brain dead mess.

But this conference has been exciting time for us here at TLNT (with a large, well received tweetup and the launch of our radio show). It’s been fun to connect with readers who just started reading us a few months ago, and introducing new people to what we have going on here.

I thought it would be a good idea to wrap up what worked and what didn’t for me here at the conference. And from someone who knows how much work goes into a show of this size and magnitude, I have a great deal of respect for what they pulled off here in the Nevada desert. Still, just like our own shows at ERE, there is always room for improvement.

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SHRM Las Vegas: The Good

  • Keynote speakers – I was a fan of three of the four keynoters at SHRM this year. With the exception of Richard Branson, I think all speakers met expectations (in the case of Michael J. Fox) or exceeded it (in the cases of Arianna Huffington and Tony Hsieh). The first keynoter for the 2012 SHRM conference in Atlanta was announced today as well. Condoleezza Rice could be an interesting keynote but I’m looking forward to hearing what else they have to offer before getting too excited.
  • Attendee engagement – The attendees in concurrent sessions packed the room and seemed fully engaged in the sessions I went to. In a town known for distractions, a busy expo floor and perfect weather for the pool, it was great to see so many people engaged there. And sure, it may have been a function of the sessions I picked (see the bad of the sessions below) but even getting a good session in the past didn’t necessarily guarantee engaged attendees.
  • Networking – One of my favorite (and most valuable) experiences here at SHRM is the networking. Not only seeing other journalists and bloggers but also seeing HR folks I know from all over the country, contributors for TLNT, and vendors as well. A couple hundred conversations over a few days powers a lot of my work the rest of the year. There is still a lot of bang for your buck here simply because you can meet with as many people as you can handle over four days.
  • SHRM staff – The SHRM support staff has always taken care of us in the press room but offering an alternative social media lounge too was a nice touch. Along with the SHRM PR staff, I got to meet with the leaders in their diversity, social media and young professional initiatives. I didn’t hear too many complaints about the technical aspects of the show either which is always tough to get right. Kudos to the show and support staff.

SHRM LasVegas: The Bad

  • Vegas – Las Vegas is a blessing and a curse (and that’s from an unapologetic fan of the city in moderate doses). While the people who came to sessions were engaged, many people were elsewhere either at the tables or the pool. On top of that, getting to and from the convention center, events and hotels can get time consuming and expensive. It’s not a cheap trip (despite lower hotel and airfare), especially if you’re paying your own way. While attendance is beyond what they expected (and large historically), it always feels like it is smaller because of these factors.
  • Sessions – While I think the concurrent sessions have improved quite a bit, there are still some improvements to be made to the overall agenda. They still need more tracks that cater to executive HR leaders (a complaint in the past that they’ve tried to fix). SHRM could also invest some time in really pushing a more forward looking agenda. I talked to several attendees who skipped entire hours because there wasn’t anything there that interested them. And when you’re in Vegas, there are alternatives.
  • Vendors – I really enjoy walking the SHRM floor and looking at new products. While the vendors I spoke with during arranged meetings were prepared and ready to go, when I dropped in to see many other’s tech offerings or ask about their product from my perspective (a member of the press, a ribbon that is pretty clear on my badge), they dropped the ball. It’s a lost opportunity to speak as a real person (not just a sales prospect).

SHRM Las Vegas: The Swag

Laurie Ruettimann from The Cynical Girl and Starr Tincup (and also a contributor for TLNT) posted a video that let’s you know about the latest in SHRM swag. And really, what better way to cap off the SHRM annual conference this year?


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