7 Minute Read

10 Things I Wish I Knew at My First SHRM

Wow. It was only a few years ago that I attended my very first SHRM conference. It was an intense experience and one I learned a lot from. Mostly I learned that being broke in Vegas is a bad, bad place to be. I also learned that you’re never broke or alone when you’re with friends and I will always have mad love in my heart for Kristi Jones, Ryan Estis and Laurie Ruettimann who helped me out when my purse got snatched on the dance floor!
Anyway, SHRM is an extravaganza of HR and although it doesn’t have the cool kid factor of the techie conferences, it does have bit of a “pros gone wild” kind of aura. But while there is lots to focus on from a fun viewpoint, SHRM is one of the best places I’ve ever been to learn, (which is why I’m taking Brancher Sarah Duke). But I won’t be directing her toward JUST the SmartStage and the MegaSessions, I’ll be giving her the advice I wish I had myself back in the day:


Seriously, not everyone in Vegas is there because of SHRM, there are some busted people who will take your purse for drugs, gambling or just because “that girl is clearly from Nebraska.”


Not to Las Vegas, to the actual Expo Hall. It’s a huge place and inevitably someone will ask you to dinner, dancing, the poolside at their hotel that is way better than yours. Why not have a change of clothes, some flat sandals and deodorant. My mama didn’t raise no fool.


Bring yours, give them away. I am still friends with people I met on a shuttle on the way to the airport at my first conference. They weren’t even there for SHRM either. It’s handy to know cool people all over the world.


Traveling with whiners is the worst. You’re here, so get happy about it. Temperatures change, food will eventually be served and no one forced you to wear those 3 inch heels. I turn on the smile when I get off the plane and sleep when I get home. It’s exhausting and also a great way to get the most out of an experience that takes me away from my business and my family.

6) GO POOLSIDE (with Robin)

If you get a chance to hang out with Robin Schooling, or any practitioner-chum-blogger, do it. Especially outside of the regular conference areas. When people have a chance to kick off their shoes and relax, you hear their real professional problems, get the best new ideas and most importantly MAKE FRIENDS.


I took a weird professional hiatus from the HR world to work in travel media. Wanna know the weirdest thing? I really missed these people. Not sure if it’s because I’ve found my tribe or what but you are likely going to be partnering with, writing alongside, tweeting to and Facebook friending these people for years to come, so why not start when you’re face to face?


Lots of up and coming bloggers have asked me straight out on Twitter or LinkedIn to meet up. I always say yes. I can’t speak for others but the chance to meet someone who admires my work and wants to learn more about what I do is exciting. BUT, you have to make an appointment, something specific like “Meet me at the ReviewSnap booth at 2pm on Monday” or “Let’s both go to the bookstore at 10am on Tuesday!” Reach out via whatever social network you know them on and make sure you are johnny on the spot about replying.


Everyone wants to see the big mega sessions, and unless you get there early, you’re outta luck once the doors close. However, the smaller sessions can be (check the interwebz for confirmation) a better bet, or the opportunity to see a great speaker up close. Lots of folks speaking in the side rooms or on the SmartStage when I first started going to SHRM are now on the big stage (Jennifer McClure, Kris Dunn, Joe Gerstandt, Jason Lauritsen). Choose the more intimate sessions and get a chance to talk to the speaker, y’know before they’re famous.


For the love of everything holy. Take notes. Either tweet as fast as humanly possible or fill an evernote with your thoughts (for blog posting and sharing later). Wifi can be tricky and the only thing less reliable than conference wifi, is conference memory. You’ll learn a lot, write it down.


Say yes to cocktail parties, intimate dinners, shared cab rides, late night after-parties, shared suites, an offer to grab coffee, when someone stops you in the hall, when someone offers you a book or swag trinket, when you’re invited along. Say yes to all these things and enjoy SHRM!
Bonus: Walk the vendor floor. Those people are working for a LIVING and would appreciate it if you’d just take a pen or demo their software…okay?