HR Tech 2011 – Double Vision

A week has now passed since the HR Technology Conference in Vegas. Not sure if it was the locals, the locale or the locos, but I’m spent. If I were a gambler, I’d bet every attendee is feeling the same.

With over two decades as an HR practitioner, I’m accustomed to these Big Deal conference events. Searching for the Holy Grail of “Aha!” Searching for HR Enlightenment. Searching for vendor solutions beautifully matched to my needs and desires. And, yes, searching for swag, for tchotchkes so damn shiny and enticing at the show, yet later looking like someone took an acid trip through the Dollar Store and dumped it all on the floor of my hotel room.

My perspective at this year’s event was different, however. For the first time, I was watching the Exhibit Hall pageantry from the inside out. True, once an HR Gal, always an HR Gal. But this year I was inside a vendor booth watching you – the attendees, the exhibitors, the “plus ones” dragged along for companionship, the union workers, the event coordinators, the bloggers. All of you.

So back at home with my bags unpacked, my swag stuffed away and my liver detoxed (don’t judge), here’s what I noticed on the HR Tech Conference exhibitor floor: It’s a lot like the first co-ed dance of my 14-year-old son’s middle school life. Two groups, desperately wanting each other, making eyes from the edges, hesitant to engage, unsure of how they’ll be judged or whether they’ll be liked, waiting for someone to start the party.

And just as I share advice with my son, welcomed or otherwise, I’ll share it here with you. Roll your eyes if you want:

Attendees:

  • When wandering the Exhibit Hall aisles, please don’t stand in front of the vendor booths making judgments or comments. Although it may sometimes feel as such, it’s not a zoo, and there’s no two-way glass separating you from them. Be daring. Step out of your shell. Rather than reaching in and grabbing swag like a trick-or-treat warm-up, engage with the knowledgeable folks in the booth. Yes, it’s true they want to sell you something, but you truly do advance the HR technology game by contributing your opinions, thoughts and ideas. Share them. And have fun.

Exhibitors:

  • You paid handsomely to staff a booth. Please don’t pat yourself on the back if you’re happy with your mediocre presence or performance. It took 12.5 seconds for an attendee to stroll past your booth. Did you warmly engage? Did you look up from your laptop? Or did you look down your judgmental nose? If you don’t make a stand here, you won’t ever stand out against your competitors. Think outside the bun, box, whatever. And, yes, you can still go big and make a knock-out impression even in a 10x10 square – if you don’t know how, just ask. It’s worth it. Be bold. And have fun.

If you’re considering attending next year’s HR Technology Conference in Chicago (and why wouldn’t you), indulge yourself for a few moments now to imagine the impact you could create – for your company, your customers or your network. Go ahead – put on your own double-vision glasses – and see yourself through the eyes of others as you start making plans for next year’s big dance.