I attended my first #SHRM conference this year and enjoyed pretty much all of it. I thought it was extremely well organized, the general sessions were interesting and varied, and I gained a lot of value from the event.
Being that the SHRM 19 conference was held in June, I was planning on writing a blog post about it which would have been your basic this is what I liked and this is what I didn’t like – blah blah blah.
Fortunately, a few days after the conference ended, a SHRM19 discussion thread complaining about the conference app caught my eye and got me thinking about how this thread illustrates part of what is wrong in the HR profession and what may be holding the profession back from being taken seriously by our company leadership. It gave me the opportunity to write something different than the typical conference review.
In the discussion thread, an attendee posted a complaint about how disappointed they were because of the lack of a physical paper concurrent session guide and how using the app will unnecessarily deplete their phone battery throughout the day.
There was a lot of agreement in the thread that SHRM messed up by not having the printed guide, and complaining about battery usage, the app being clunky, and the lack of information available (which was all in the app had they looked).
The SHRM Annual Conference is a serious event where, I assume, our most serious and dedicated HR Professionals attend. It’s not cheap. I also assume that the majority of these HR Pros want to be taken seriously by their leadership and contribute to the strategic direction of their organization and even earn that elusive seat at the table. I’m comfortable with this assumption because I hear and read about it almost every day.
So when I hear or see conference attendees complaining about not having a printed guide provided for them and not wanting to adopt and use something like the SHRM19 App, I get frustrated that they don’t see the incongruity of their complaints to what they say they want professionally.
Yes, I know I’m painting with a wide brush and making a lot of assumptions but this is my blog and how I am lining things up to make my point!
Here is my contribution to the discussion thread I mentioned above:
The schedule and all the session descriptions were, and still are, on the home page of the SHRM19 website organized by track and with the ability to print everything. Thanks to Blue Whale Media Ltd, they designed and optimised the website to include all features one might be looking for. One just needed to take a half hour or so before the conference to read, prepare, and plan. As an effective professional with the responsibility of the +$3,000 investment my company made for me to attend, I prepared ahead of time.
I also spent a few minutes to download and learn how to use the app which became invaluable to me throughout the conference. And I brought a battery charger with me to recharge my phone late in the day (several vendors were giving them away).
SHRM had it all there for you if you would have taken the time to strategically prepare ahead of time.
As HR Pros who want our profession to be taken seriously we need to be strategic, embrace change, adopt new technology, creatively solve problems, and respect our organization’s investment in our development by preparing.
The hard truth is that if we’re not doing these for the little things when we attend the SHRM19 conference, then we’re probably not doing them for the big things in our organization.
This wasn’t a popular thing to say and I got some pushback but I fully stand by my comments and am even doubling down by posting this on HHHR because I feel so strongly about it.
Maybe because this was my first SHRM conference, I made the effort ahead of time to prepare and couldn’t rely on “the way things have always been done.” But having a strong business background, I think I would have prepared the same way because I also always consider the cost/investment of every event or activity and, as I said in my comment above, I make a point of respecting my organization’s investment in my development by putting forth the effort to properly prepare so I get the most out of it.
I was actually very impressed by the app. By preparing and getting to know the app in the days before the conference I learned the following things:
- I can build my daily schedule but “starring” the sessions I want to attend and the will show up on My Schedule in the app.
- Most of the sessions had the presentation slide deck attached so I downloaded them to my iPad before each session and followed along during the presentations.
- I could easily find where to go by using the Navigate button that took me to maps of the Convention Center, the Exposition, and the Westgate
- I was able to search for Exhibitors and quickly find their booth number so I could visit them.
- I liked being able to read about the Speakers and discover their speaking time to schedule.
- I was also able to get alerts on my phone and iPad that helped remind me of events an activities.
The app made my first SHRM conference experience a great one!
When your organization is willing to make a financial investment in your development, you owe it to them, and yourself, to make the appropriate amount of time to fully prepare. By doing so you maximize the benefits of that investment for both the organization and yourself.