For those of us in the human resources profession, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Annual Conference is approaching. This year’s event will be held June 17-20, 2018 in Chicago. This is a must-go event for me. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to see fellow bloggers that I interact with on Facebook and Twitter and people who I worked with as a SHRM volunteer.
If you’ve never been to a SHRM Annual Conference before or it’s been a few years, let me tell you – it’s a big conference. HUGE! We’re talking tens of thousands of people, but don’t let that deter you. The ginormity of the event also means the conference offers something for everyone . . . if you prepare yourself properly. So, here’s my list of tips for people who are planning to attend:
BEFORE YOU GO
- Download the conference app. If you’re looking for copies of handouts and special announcements, it will all be in the app. You could wait and do it onsite. There will be WiFi during the conference, but it’s not like your WiFi at the office or home. So, download the SHRM Annual Conference app before you leave.
- Download the SHRM Certification app before you leave. If you are a certified professional and have an iPhone/iPad, make life easy on yourself and download the SHRM Certification mobile app. You can track recertification points as you earn them.
- Bring a FedEx label to mail yourself stuff home. The expo hall is also the home to all kinds of conference swag. If you’re concerned about your luggage hitting the weight limit, just print off a FedEx shipping label and mail stuff home. If you don’t use it, fine. At least you have a plan.
- Start following the Twitter stream – #SHRM18. I know that not everyone is a fan of Twitter, but conferences and events is one of the things Twitter does well. Dust off your Twitter account before you leave and save the hashtag. It’s a way to follow the action. You might get some ideas about a session to attend, a book to purchase, or someplace fun to meet and eat.
ON THE PLANE
- Plan your schedule but save some time for impromptu meetings. There’s a delicate balance between sticking to a schedule and taking advantage of last minute opportunities. If you’re a scheduling freak like me, I block off free time to use for last minute coffee meetings (or sneaking off to Starbucks! Or maybe a burger run!!)
- Don’t miss the legislative update! Mike Aitken, SHRM’s vice president of government affairs will be presenting a session at the SHRM Annual Conference on “The Washington Outlook for HR Public Policy” on Sunday, June 17 at 12:30p (just before the opening general session.) This is a session you won’t want to miss!
- Some of the best sessions are the early bird ones! I know, it’s Chicago and the trip wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of partying. But I can tell you from experience, some of the best sessions are early in the morning. I know I’ll be grabbing a venti dirty chai to make the “Surfing the Silver Tsunami: 5 Ways to Navigate the Post-Boomer Retirement Era” session at 7a on Monday, June 18.
- Check out at least one session on the Smart Stage. SHRM has their own version of TEDtalks – it’s called the Smart Stage. The sessions are short (less than 20 minutes) and take on a more conversational tone. I’m hoping to stop by Louis Lessig’s session on “Understanding Cybersecurity: The New Role of HR in Protecting Your Organization” on Wednesday, June 20 at 10:00a.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE
- Use the bookstore as a central meeting location. Every time I’m at a conference, there’s always at least one moment where someone says, “Where should we meet?” The answer? Right in front of the SHRM Store. Works every time. And, while you’re waiting, you can check out the excellent books and resources they have available.
- Drink plenty of water. I know, everyone says this every year but it’s true. Personally, I think the most popular booths in the expo hall this year will be the ones giving away Yeti Ramblers or Swell water bottles. (Hint, hint to exhibitors looking for fabulous swag ideas.)
- Pay it forward. We don’t know the plan for the Tuesday night party yet. Whoever it is, some people will love it (and others not so much). If you’re not going to use your Tuesday night ticket, give it to someone who will use it. At some point, you’ll want someone to do that for you.
- EXPO! Last but certainly not least, I cannot say enough how important it is to visit the vendors in the expo hall. These organizations are the reason that SHRM can get awesome speakers and keep registration prices low. Exhibitors and sponsors offset those costs. So, walk around the expo and check out the latest HR products and services.
The SHRM Annual Conference and Expo offers a lot of education, networking, and fun for professionals looking to stay current with what’s happening in the profession. And I’m not just saying that because I’m going. Every year, it continues to amaze me. Hope you can join us in Chi-Town!
Oh, and P.S. Yes, I know ginormity isn’t really an official word. But it should be. Don’t ya think?
Image of the Chicago skyline captured by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking at the SHRM Annual Conference17