SHRM 2010: Don’t Waste Your Time

If you’re attending SHRM 2010, don’t waste your time, or your dime.

Use this opportunity to learn something new, make new connections, land that next gig, get those new clients – whatever is truly on your mind as your Next Big Step. With a conference this big, attracting so many HR Pros and business leaders, you have the perfect opportunity to do what you want. But don’t show up, expect to be spoon-fed training, and leave. That would be a big waste.

I once landed my dream job at a National SHRM conference. I was working in a small town, disconnected from other opportunities, and I knew I wanted a bigger platform to do my thing. So since the SHRM National conference was being held nearby, I set my sights high. I decided I was going to walk out of the conference with at least three funny stories, fifteen new friends, two major job leads, and thirty-five non-vendor-related business cards. I asked a friend, who wasn’t attending, to help me keep score every morning – and I went to work. Here’s how I did it.

  • I spent time on the SHRM bulletin boards before the conference, getting to know some people and arranging for a meetup or two.
  • I went alone, so no one could bust my momentum or distract me from my goal.
  • I came up with a loose elevator speech explaining what I’d done up to that point, what I was looking to do, and my goals for the conference. This was important – it helped get strangers at the conference “on my team” and they introduced me to lots of their friends and invited me to parties.
  • I made myself show up. I went to every party, every luncheon, every large class I heard of. I also, frankly, crashed a party or two – sorry SHRM Best Small Companies partygoers, that was me with the lampshade on my head.
  • I applied for jobs through the SHRM on-site job board, and asked to meet with company interviewers during the conference. This is actually what did it for me. I was in the computer room and saw that Dream Job had JUST been posted. I quickly shot an email out outlining why I was The One and asking to visit immediately. The recruiter, Shannon Maroney of HR Backbone,  introduced herself, and we talked right there! We immediately clicked, and over the course of the next couple of days, she and I got to know each other much better. I told her about my goals for the SHRM conference and we attended a couple of the same parties. On the last day of the conference, I took her to lunch and to the airport. By the time she introduced me to her client, she was comfortable selling me as the best possible match to Dream Company’s CEO.

I know SHRM National is about more than networking. The seminars are great and you can learn a great deal just by listening. But if you are one of the attendees who goes to every seminar, takes notes, and then watches bad cable in your hotel room all night, you are REALLY missing out.  There’s no reward for being a wallflower.  You don’t need to be me, totally goal-focused and intent, but you do need to stretch yourself.  HR is an isolating and often depressing job. Use this time to make some new friends and have a laugh or two.  If you don’t, you may be wasting your time.

13 thoughts on “SHRM 2010: Don’t Waste Your Time”

  1. Good post, great title. Attention-getting.

    I like the comments for newbies, especially. I’ve been to more of these than I care to count, and it seems first-timers are either overwhelmed (understandably), or don’t put forth the specific effort to get the greatest value from attending.

    I personally liked your objectives for attending; sets the stage for concentrated efforts and purposeful activities, versus otherwise-insane randomness.

    …and since I’ll be speaking this year (Wed 11:30-12:5, since you asked… didn’t you ask??), there’s all the more reason for attending.

    Good post, Franny, thanks.


  2. Great advice, Franny.

    Coming from a hopeless Certification addict, I’m the first one to tell an attendee if they are showing up simply for recertification credit, they are missing the point. Really show up, soak everything for all that it is worth.

    Think about what talking points you use to justify the cost to your CEO. Like Franny did, make a plan around those points and stick to it. Even if do you attend with a buddy, make it understood that you are there for a greater reason and go your separate ways.

    After the conference evaluate yourself and look at what do did right and what you need to improve upon at the next conference.

  3. Thanks for the comments!

    I need to be clear that this wasn’t particularly easy for me, especially at that time in my life, and I don’t possess some magical Party Persona. I had my share of awkward conversations and rejection and sometimes had to force myself to walk up to just one more person before calling it a day. But it paid off. I got my funny stories, I got some new friends, and I got the one solid job lead I really wanted.

    I won’t be at SHRM National this year, but I hope those of you attending create a rich and rewarding experience for yourselves! Be intentional! You never know what might happen if you put yourself out there.

  4. Right on, Franny! Doers and making things happen for yourself make for better go-to folk and leaders — and are the ones who’ve got it goin’ on. Great advice.

  5. Awesome post Franny! Sorry to hear you’re not going to annual this year; I am still looking forward to meeting you in person – hopefully soon. I, like Lori, am a hopeless Certification addict, so I have been seriously considering the merits of that new “Premium Package.” Have to get my International credits in now that I sat for the GPHR… I will try not to be too fanatical and count on ways to at least spread them over this year and next…

  6. Amazing advice! I am finally getting to my first SHRM after a number of years in HR and am incredibly excited to see it all in action…I’m going to start surfing the SHRM bulletin board now……..

  7. Great post Franny! I love the tips and you are absolutely right. I usually have the opposite problem, too MUCH networking. You deserve that dream job if you worked the conference this well. Simply smart.

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