SHRM Orlando Day 1: Robin Roberts on How to Dream Big, Focus Small

You know what I liked most about Day 1 and the opening general session of the Society for Human Resource Management’s 66th annual Conference & Exhibition that started on Sunday in Orlando?

Answer: I could actually listen to the keynote speaker.

If this seems like a small and inconsequential victory, it is, because last year in Chicago, opening speaker Hillary Clinton set the tone for the conference by not only banning the media from her session, but also refusing to allow her presentation to be broadcast into the press room and blogger’s lounge.

The ongoing buzz about HR certification

That didn’t stop the media from covering what she had to say, of course — we had SHRM members who COULD get into her presentation report on it for us here at TLNT — but it did send an interesting message from someone who is reported to be ready to run for President again.

SHRM2014So, score one for the 2014 Orlando conference and the ability for everyone, SHRM members and media alike, to hear what keynote speaker Robin Roberts of ABC’s Good Morning America had to say (and more on her presentation in a moment).

But, if every SHRM conference has a theme (and this year’s official theme is Transform (where have I heard that before?), they also always seem to have an undercurrent that people are buzzing about.

This year’s undercurrent? It’s the ongoing controversy over SHRM’s new Competency-based HR Certification, and the lack of an official presence at the Orlando conference by the HR Certification Institute, SHRM’s former partner.

Not only does SHRM have six official sessions scheduled over the four days of the conference to explain the new SHRM HR certification, but HRCI is camped out at a hotel near to the SHRM conference at the Orlando Convention Center and has scheduled all sorts of meetings and press briefings to explain what is happening from their perspective with their ongoing certification process in the wake of SHRM’s decision.

Plus, I heard all sorts of people here in Orlando talking about the ongoing certification controversy, and bloggers seem to be getting fired up about it again with commentary from both those who support what SHRM is doing to those who think that the world’s largest HR organization has badly bungled things with their handling of certifications and HRCI.

A pair of inspirational speakers

Fortunately, Day 1 at SHRM Orlando was also about the opening general session, which featured two inspirational speakers sandwiched around SHRM CEO Hank Jackson‘s talk that went from the coming of robots in the workplace and the skills HR professionals really need, to his defense of SHRM’s new certification process.

Inspirational Speaker No. 1 was Heather Abbott, PHR, who works helping to promote fair employment practices for women and minorities at Raytheon. She is a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing and came back from losing a leg to walking proudly on stage here in Florida to briefly talk to the 13,000 HR pros at the opening session.

Boston Marathon bombing survivor Heather Abbott, PHR
Boston Marathon bombing survivor Heather Abbott, PHR

Abbott, who was warmly received by the Orlando crowd, had these words that seemed to resonate with everyone: “Recognize what you can’t change and accept it.”

Inspirational Speaker No. 2 was the keynoter that everyone came to see on Day 1  — Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America. Under her leadership, the broadcast has won three consecutive Emmy awards for Outstanding Morning Program.

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But Roberts’ professional success really takes a backseat to her personal triumphs.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2007, she announced in 2012 that she was battling myelodysplastic syndrome, which triggered an outpouring of support from across the nation. Roberts made a triumphant return to the anchor desk on Feb. 20, 2013, five months to the day since she underwent the transplant.

Her recently released memoir, Everybody’s Got Somethingchronicles her life and her struggles, and what she has learned along the way.

“Dream big but focus small”

Roberts’ SHRM speech took a similar tone, and the audience was quickly pulled into her message when she said early on that, “experiences, good and bad, have transformed my life … and everybody has something. … Dream big but focus small … focus on the day-to-day things that will get you closer to your bigger dream.”

Her closing admonition was equally inspiring: “Remember, we’re all a little bit stronger than we think we are.”

I like inspirational speakers, and as I said on Twitter, if I can’t have a speaker who can apply what they say to HR, an inspirational speaker is the next best thing.

So it was with Robin Roberts and Heather Abbott on Day 1 here in Orlando. Now that we have gotten the inspirational part of the speaking program out of the way, I’m looking forward to some speakers who maybe, hopefully, will say something directed specifically to HR.

We have three more days here in Central Florida to find out.

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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