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June 28, 2012

Destination HR: I’m on “SHRM time”

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: 2:01 pm

It’s Thursday, and for me, it’s back to the real world of everyday.  Since Sunday, I’ve been on “SHRM time,” to borrow from SHRM CEO Hank Jackson.  When I was sitting in the opening session on Sunday, it really seemed that I had so much time and that the conference would never come to an end.  The first part of the week went by so much quicker than I could have imagined.  As I shared with you on Tuesday, there is simply no better word to describe the conference than “overwhelming.”

On Tuesday morning, the general session speaker was author Jim Collins.  He’s a great storyteller, and I was riveted as he recounted the tale of Amundsen and Scott, two men who both ventured on a South Pole expedition in 1911, only to have drastically different outcomes.  Says Collins: “Greatness is not a function of circumstance.  Greatness is first and foremost a conscious choice, and discipline.”

Outside of the conference experience and some fantastic sessions, my favorite part of the trip was visiting the World of Coke, and not just because I got to meet him:

Here I am with the Coca-Cola Polar Bear

I had a beyond-great customer service experience in the store, and it was obvious to me that the individual who helped me hadn’t singled me out to provide that great service – she makes it part of every single interaction she has with a customer.

As a rookie attendee, I tried to gather every piece of information I could get my hands on prior to heading to Atlanta.  Even so, I was unprepared for the experience.  Here are a few of my observations, as I process my SHRM 2012 experience.  I hope they’ll help you if you’re considering a trip to Chicago for SHRM 2013.

  • The food situation.  I felt like an explorer, constantly on the search for a good source of food.  The Georgia World Congress Center did have some options.  As is probably standard, prices inside the GWCC (where SHRM12 was held) were akin to asking for one’s first-born.  Although the CNN Center is right across the street, someone from out of town wouldn’t necessarily know that the place had at least 10 dining choices inside.  I found out from a colleague.   Here’s my advice to next year’s attendees in Chicago: do some thorough research ahead of time and find somewhere nearby (within walking distance) to grab something quickly.
  • Vendor parties (go to them).  On the first evening, Michele and I had an opportunity to go to party put on by a vendor.  They were wonderful hosts.  More than that, we met some interesting HR pros in the process.  It was a nice icebreaker, and I’m proud to say I had a small hand in encouraging Michele to get her own Twitter handle!
  • Plan ahead, but give yourself flexibility.  Take advantage of the mobile app SHRM provides.  Scope out interesting sessions and add them to your calendar.  Try to pick two, so that you’ll have a back-up if the one you want is full.  It was tempting to ignore the advice that so many veterans gave and schedule myself for 4-5 sessions a day.  I’m glad I followed their advice and kept it to 3 a day at the most.  Otherwise, there is not enough time to allow for networking, strolling through the exhibit hall, and hanging out in the SHRM store.
  • Bring lots of money with you.  The shuttle service between the GWCC and the hotel was convenient, but if you want to do anything else, like go to dinner, you’ll need money for transportation.  The shuttle stopped running each night about 1 ½ hours after the last session ended.  I overheard a few people who said that hotel options in Chicago are further spread out than in Atlanta, so there may be many cab rides in your future.
  • Ask the concierge where the locals eat.  Our friend and colleague, Laura, got the skinny on South City Kitchen.  We had the house specialty fried chicken, a simply fantastic Georgia peach salad, and blueberry cheesecake bread pudding (yes, there was white chocolate involved) for dessert.  It was one of my favorite experiences – great food with some great people.

The Georgia peach salad at South City Kitchen

  • Go to the Tuesday night entertainment, no matter how tired you may be.  Look, you’ll be exhausted after three full days of nonstop conference activity.  I get it.  But don’t let yourself miss out on this unique opportunity.  We had Jerry Seinfeld, Las Vegas had Keith Urban.  Honestly, any other time, I might not have chosen to go see either one.  I’m glad I did, though.  It’s a good opportunity to let down your hair and relieve a little bit of that stress you might carry around along with your conference bag.

I learned so many things; I haven’t even come close to processing all of it.  I know one thing for sure: I had an unparalleled experience in Atlanta at SHRM12.  Were you in Atlanta?  What did you think?

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