Whew! The 2018 Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) annual conference is over. 24 hours later and I’m still letting the whole experience sink in. I’m usually not at a loss for words, but this conference has me searching for the right things to say. After reflecting a bit, I realize I cannot put into words how I really feel, but I can say that I am overwhelmed. I’m overloaded. But, most importantly, I’m overjoyed.
This conference is enormous. So big that the attendance broke records every hour. We went from 17,000 attendees to 22,000 attendees in the matter of one keynote session (ok, inside joke.) All kidding aside, this was the single most attended HR event in the world and it felt like it.
Admittedly, I am not a big conference goer. This was my 3rd annual conference in the past 10 years and I am more of a state-conference attendee. (The Illinois SHRM conference is in September. Come hang out!) While I love a huge crowd like the Indianapolis 500, seeing 20,000 HR professionals all at once was very overwhelming.
The expo hall was endless. Thousands of vendors peddling their wares to the masses was a sight to be seen. From puppy adoption to hair weaves, and every HR service and technology in between, there was something for everyone. While there were some outrageous booths, many were there showcasing their unique HR products. And, thank you to them, for making this conference happen. Without their support, this conference wouldn’t be half of what it is.
The over 200 sessions were awesome. The wide range of topics catered to every HR professional, from the generalist to the specialist. From Talent Acquisition to Talent Management. There was never a dull moment nor any minute of down time. Mega sessions started at 7am and the final sessions concluded at 5:15pm. The process to decide which ones to attend was a bit overwhelming, but you couldn’t go wrong with your choices.
If this conference was a deep-dish pizza, I was definitely over-served, and this was a good thing! I love the overstuffed feeling of having a little too much pizza and this conference had that same feeling.
I tried to maximize as much of the time I had there as I could. I attended sessions on coaching, culture, sexual harassment, generational differences, personal branding, diversity and inclusion, and being a better HR business partner. I learned at least 2 new things from each session. I took tons of notes and tweeted a few times. (Sorry, followers!) I wanted to capture as much as I could to bring back to my teams and share the wealth.
I also realized that consuming this much content made me tired. While I’m a pretty extroverted person, at the end of the day, I was in a fog. I found myself struggling to form complete sentences when talking to friends after the day, and, no, it wasn’t the beer. My brain already has a limited capacity and loading it up with this much rich content made for some hazy evenings. But I wouldn’t change this at all. I’m fortunate to be able to attend this conference and get the exposure to so many talented professionals.
This conference exceeded all of my expectations. In the past, I have been a bit of a conference cynic. I think my good friend, Paul Hebert (for whom I did not spend enough time with and I deeply regret), said it best here. I have viewed a lot of HR conferences from afar. I wouldn’t attend, but would judge from the social media stream and think it was a waste of time. But attending this conference has changed my perspective.
I’m overjoyed to have met so many of the HR professionals that I admire and respect. I’m not going to name them all here because I know I would not do that list justice, but I’m overjoyed for the current and future state of our profession. To witness the passion and dedication of the 20,000 attendees and how much they care for those they advocate for everyday is inspiring.
Our profession takes a lot of heat. Some of it is warranted, but most of it is not. I’ll save that for another post. All I know is that I saw the most dedicated group of professionals gathering for a common cause to make a difference for their companies, the employees they support, and, most importantly, for themselves.
I’m overjoyed at the future outlook of our profession and I couldn’t be more proud of this group of fantastic people. From the young professionals to the young at heart, the HR profession has never been in better hands than where it is today. There are tough issues to tackle and this group is ready for the challenge.
I’m truly honored and humbled to be a small slice of this large deep-dish HR pizza pie and hope to be a part of it for SHRM19, in Vegas!