SHRM Las Vegas: Six Things I Learned That Really Need to Happen

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Jul 6, 2015

The largest HR conference in the world, SHRM National 2015, concluded last week in Las Vegas.

As I reflect back on the conference for 2015, I wanted to share some thoughts and learnings I got from the conference.

Here are my thoughts in no particular order:

  1. The Expo Hall is still overwhelming. There are 700 plus vendors, and some of the SHRM veterans tell me it’s smaller than in year’s past. Who cares? It’s still freaking huge! The funny part is these 700 plus companies are truly only a fraction of the vendors who are coming after HR and Talent Pros on a daily basis. I’ve been coming to SHRM for years and the size of the Expo Hall never ceases to fascinate me.
  2. SHRM is missing an gigantic opportunity. About 15,700 SHRM members attended the annual conference.  About 235,000 did not. SHRM should be streaming content live to the members who can’t make it. Not all the content, of course, just some of the content. Give those that can’t come a taste of what they’re missing. Of course, some of the big keynote speakers won’t allow this, contractually, but almost 100 percent of us speaking for free would welcome the streaming opportunity. If SHRM streamed content from the national conference, they could get another 50,000 members watching remotely! I can’t even tell you how big of a missed opportunity this is for SHRM.
  3. We are all not Zappos and Google. I think SHRM speakers get this more than most. About 99.9 percent of SHRM attendees work for organizations that have daily struggles and real HR and talent problems. The members come to the conference to get better, not to hear how the .1 percent do it better. We don’t have Zappos’ culture and we don’t have Google’s resources. We are real HR people so give us real HR examples. I think in 2015, SHRM did a good job of getting speakers that were like the rest of us, and I appreciate that.
  4. I’m confused how SHRM actually schedules speakers and space. I wish SHRM would tell you up front what size room you would be speaking in. Kris Dunn and I had one of the smallest venues to speak in. It was probably a room of 500 and it was packed, with people sitting on the floor, standing, etc. My friend Mary Faulkner,  from Denver Water (who, BTW, was really good), had a giant room that probably sat 2,000! It was Mary’s first time speaking at SHRM and the room was too big. Ours was too small. SHRM had to know this. Socially, Kris and I could have gotten 500 people to show up in the parking lot and hear us do our thing. We’ve worked for years to build an audience. Why doesn’t SHRM take that into account?
  5. HR vendors have learned the ROI on big parties just isn’t there. Back in the day at SHRM National, you could jump from party to party every night of the conference. These were huge parties, with free food, drink and entertainment! This year, there was only one, and it was the SHRM party with Jennifer Hudson. Great party, but it was the ONLY one! There were private parties, dinners, etc, but nothing for the masses. That was a change, and I don’t see them coming back. Vendors are getting more specific and smarter with their money. Why spend a couple of hundred grand on everyone, when you can spend $25K on a few that you’ll know will more than likely buy? That’s just good marketing.
  6. The SHRM App continues to get better. Early in the conference I threw SHRM VP of Meetings and Conferences Lisa Block under the bus when I tweeted out about what “idiot” password protected that SHRM App, which was a first. I quickly had to eat crow when Lisa tweeted back and said she was the idiot and the reason why was because now the App had all the content of each speaker’s presentation. Which was totally awesome!  nd, I’m the idiot! Lisa did good. Can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve next year.

I hope to see you all at SHRM in June 2016 in D.C.!