Three Takeaways from #SHRM17

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, June 22, 2017


I'm back from another whirlwind SHRM Annual Conference in New Orleans. I've attended for seventeen (17) straight years, so what did I notice in particular about this one?

1.  As always, the volunteers and SHRM staff once again did an exemplary job in putting together a worthwhile conference. Planning a conference is an enormous undertaking, especially of this magnitude, and is reliant upon a number of people working hard in addition to their full-time jobs.  That it exists at all is a minor miracle.

2.  People are never going to be pleased. The complaints have to be taken with a grain of salt, and expectations have to be managed appropriately. The typical litany of complaints I overheard are familiar from previous years:

  • Not enough actionable content.  Schedule yourself better.  The program comes out early.  The presentations are available for download ahead of time. There are not a lot of surprises. The SHRM blog squad put out 150+ posts during the conference.  The SMART stage and the #Take10 sessions provided a ton of great content.  The twitter stream was a blur. There were 900+ exhibitors ready to answer your specific questions.  You had 18,000 peers that you could have approached and bounced ideas off of. If you couldn't find actionable content, you were not looking hard enough. Further, the RFP for the 2018 conference is due July 15. If you think you can do better, prove it. 
  • Lines were super long for the bathroom.  Yes, they were.  Yet, many of the men's bathrooms were annexed and became women's bathrooms. Do you have a better solution? Should they cap attendance?
  • Events started at 7:00 am, and I was tired from the night before.  Go to bed earlier.  They've had 7:00 sessions every year I've attended since 2001.  The game is the game
  • There were not snacks at mid-morning or mid-afternoon.  Are you pre-schoolers?  Is it the responsibility of SHRM to feed you 24/7?  Pack some snacks to take with you.
  • Lunch was mediocre.  You were warned.
  • I had to wait in line for the buses.  The schedule is posted well in advance.  If you want to be closer to the convention center, book your room now (or when housing opens again in November).
  • Long walk to get to sessions/sessions were full.  Yep. Leave earlier. Do you have a better solution?
  • SHRM board members get prime seats at sessions.  Yes they do. Perk of the job. Want better seats? Get to the general session earlier.  Should SHRM start selling prime seats as add-ons to the conference registration?
  • Wi-fi sucked.  Yes, it did.  It was frustrating.  You survived. 
If any of the above are really deal breakers, perhaps the SHRM Annual Conference is not for you.

3.  Why do I continue to attend the SHRM Annual Conference?  HR is continually changing, and what I need to do in my job needs to reflect it. My tribe is there every year to commiserate, share their trials and tribulations, laugh, and learn.  I still get something new out of it each year, and that continually makes it worthwhile for me to attend.

    2 comments

    about Chicago room prices, if you are attending with others, look into AirB&B. A number of attendees at the last Chicago conference (and in Las Vegas, Orlando, etc have found great deals there.

    by John Jorgensen on June 23, 2017 at 6:32 AM. #

    Haha, the bathroom and lunch complaints... It's so true that you can't make everyone happy! The fact that the conference is well-organized is a feat in itself. I've never been but it sounds like one to look into. It's important to constantly optimize your hiring process (Hotjar talks more about that here: http://bit.ly/2xSRUlo), so kudos to you! Thanks for sharing this.

    by Beth Hudson on October 1, 2017 at 11:15 AM. #

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