Day 1 at SHRM San Diego: June Gloom, Forbes’ Bad Back, and Member Growth

If you’ve ever been to a SHRM annual conference and exhibition, you know one thing is true: Day 1 of the conference is as good as it gets.

That’s not to say that good stuff doesn’t happen throughout the four days of the big annual SHRM event, but just that Sunday always seems to be the one day out of the four where everyone is fresh and happy to be there. The long days of attending sessions hasn’t really started yet (that kicks in on Monday), and the long nights of partying are still to come. And that seems to be true if it’s held in San Diego, New Orleans, or anywhere else.

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So, with the thoughts of happy and friendly interactions with people at SHRM still fresh in my mind, here are some interesting things that happened on Day 1 in San Diego:

  • Attendance rebounds. President & CEO Lon O’Neil said that attendance had rebounded at SHRM San Diego and that “11,000 are here – 4,000 more than last year.” Early indications were that this was going to happen, as I reported here two weeks ago , and it follows the upswing that most conferences have seen this year. And, a head count of approximately 11,000 in San Diego would put 2010 on par with attendance in 2008 at Chicago, but still behind the 13,000 plus would attended in 2007 when SHRM was in Las Vegas – the site of next year’s June conference.
  • Membership holds steady in 2009. SHRM’s membership held steady last year at 245,233, according to the organization’s 2009 Annual Report, and membership dues revenue was flat at $35.57 million in 2009 (compared to $35.47 million the year before). But SHRM is looking to increase membership in 2010, with a goal of about a 10,000 member increase to 255,000. And as the report noted, a big push is being made to attract more young HR professionals in the 22-30 year-old range. “This segment is vital to SHRM’s and the profession’s sustainability,” the annual report said.
  • More global members, too. O’Neill also told the opening general session that SHRM has expanded its operations globally and that the society now has 1,100 members in India. And, some 800 of the attendees at SHRM San Diego came from 70 countries outside the United States.
  • The annual CEO press conference returns. I gave Lon O’Neil a hard time last year for abandoning the tradition of the CEO’s annual press conference after the opening general session (it was my single most popular post of the year over at Workforce), so it’s only fair that I give O’Neil kudos for bringing it back this year. Wish I could tell you that the press briefing was rip-roaring newsworthy, but alas, Lon repeated a lot of what he said in his remarks before the opening general session, and the assembled media didn’t have any questions for him anyway.
  • Surprising weather? Lots of talk at the SHRM conference about the weather in San Diego, especially from members coming from points East,where temperatures have been at or near 100 degrees. San Diego has been slightly cooler – cloudy and grey for most of the day, with temps in the high 60s at best. Although members who attended the last conference in San Diego back in 2005 may remember it being a lot warmer, “June gloom” at this time of year is fairly common in San Diego and all of Southern California. My advice to SHRM attendees: enjoy it while you can, because you’ll be heading home to summer temperatures soon enough.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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