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Take a peek behind the HR Tech curtain

We’re no strangers to the HR Technology Conference and Expo. The Starr Conspiracy has been an event partner and sponsor of the conference for nearly a decade and has attended for even longer. Needless to say — we’ve seen it all, and this year was noticeably different.

There was a palpable energy in the city and it wasn’t only because Shania Twain was in town. We sat down with some of our team members who shared their unique experiences and perspective of the show.

Here’s what we found out. 

In three words or less, how would you describe your HR Tech experience in 2022?

“Encouraging, hopeful, and energized.”

Tony Spangler, VP of PR and Analyst Relations

“Heartwarming and refreshing.” – Val Forin, Account Manager

“Busy and productive.”

Joseph Galvan, Director of Brand Experience

“Cool, Fun, Enlightening”

Brandy McGeehan, Website Strategist & Project Manager

“Chaos, excitement, productive.”

Joel Stupka, Director of Business Development

“Invaluable face-time.”

– Brad Hilliard, Director of Sales

“Productive, exciting, overwhelming” – Haley McBride, Business Development

“Shit is back.”

Lance Haun, Influencer VP, Market Insights

Did any key themes develop in your conversations throughout the week?

“For the most part, it seems like exhibitors were pretty pleased with the traffic and the engagement of attendees at the show.“

Joseph Galvan

“Skills, AI and analytics were the buzzwords du jour. Practitioners are still most highly concerned with hiring and retention—but there’s a looming concern on anticipated healthcare hikes in 2023. There is still a sea of “sameness” in the messaging across the conference. I saw at least one or a combination of these three words in practically every booth tagline ‘people, AI, experience’.” – Joel Stupka

“Lots of “people-first” theme but also a lot of very bland, uninspiring booths on the show floor.” – Tony Spangler

“Overall, there was a lot of optimism – and talk about market consolidation.” – Brad Hilliard

“Some companies were hesitant to invest in a booth but seeing the turnout this year, they had FOMO.” – Val Forin

“It seemed like everyone was happy about the show and the amount of attendees. There were a lot of good conversations happening at booths and throughout the conference.” – Haley McBride

“I wrote about this in the newsletter but internal mobility came up again and again. Unlike recruiting, engagement, or the development conversation that comes up every year, this one was new because it sort of combines all of that but with no key stakeholder to sell to. I think companies have finally figured out where the rubber meets the road when it comes to the “reskilling” conversation and it’s all about how you keep those people moving and grooving inside the organization.” – Lance Haun

What surprised you at the show?

“The biggest surprise for me was how receptive folks were to our positioning as an “experience” agency. I received a lot of head nods and validation as I talked about defining moments and creating experiences that matter. Seems like many CMOs and business leaders are fighting the same fight.” – Joseph Galvan

“​​The size and scale of the expo floor. Taking 2 years off seemed to reignite appetites for massive booth displays, like the 80×80 faux–Apple store or the two story behemoths.” – Joel Stupka

“Some very large teams of people were representing the vendors. I expected smaller teams in the booths.” – Tony Spangler

“How much money companies spent on the show – [one payroll solution] brought 70 people in and used it as their team building event of the year.” – Brandy McGeehan

“I was surprised at how chill [The Star Conspiracy] could be. My previous trade show experience was focused on getting leads, scanning badges, and tempting people to the booth. Our strategy to host the lounge was effective and relieved the pressure from our team and attendees.” – Val Forin

“I didn’t get big hype vibes coming to the show. I knew there’d be people there but I didn’t realize how big it would be. The expo growth that they kept talking about is great but buyers haven’t always been as enthusiastic about showing up. This year seemed better for the attendees but they have to keep programming better content if they want attendee growth to match vendor growth.” – Lance Haun

Favorite moment on the trade show floor? 

“Seeing old friends and new people I had only met virtually during the last 2.5 years was great. I literally had to give myself more time to get places because I didn’t want to say no to catching up with anyone.” – Lance Haun

“We were able to bring a lot of the Starr Conspiracy fam to the expo this year and I think it really made a difference for our clients. Having extra hands and moral support on the floor goes a long way when you’re trying to create a defining moment for your brand. Having so many new and old friends come to the lounge to personally say “thank you” was a nice addition to a long week.” – Joseph Galvan

“Penn and Teller show at MasterClass booth.” – Joel Stupka

The quality of beer at the Exhibitor’s Lounge, second only to hugging a few agents who I hadn’t even yet met in person.” – Tony Spangler

[beer photo]

“Checking in on our friends’ and partners’ booths and stopping by frequently to catch up and mingle with them. It was fun to deliver desserts and refreshments to folks that were unable to leave their booths and bring a smile to their faces.” – Val Forin

Team Ocho Gift Bags

Favorite moment off the trade show floor? 

“Just getting in-person time with our folks. It is hard to connect fully on-screen.” – Brandy McGeehan

“There was a Tim Horton’s conference going on at the same time as HR Tech. Needless to say, their promo items were a little bit different than what was offered on our expo floor. As an example, I saw a nice young professional draped in Philadelphia cream cheese gear while balancing a pyramid of bagels on their laptop. It was a sight to behold. If I wasn’t balancing six boxes of Ocho gear (and myself) on the back of a flatbed cart, I would’ve taken a photo. That said, this is a pretty close representation

Also, when [REDACTED] started [REDACTED] on the [REDACTED]. Glad there is was a video.” – Joseph Galvan

“Unexpectedly riding in a party bus with some of my favorite people.” – Haley McBride

“Talking with some of our clients who were over the moon with how much they love the work they’re doing with us. I mean, visceral reactions to even just seeing us in person.” – Tony Spangler 

“Getting to know team members I haven’t had a chance to work with yet! Hearing stories and having deep-ish conversations. It was awesome to finally see and experience the team bonding I’ve heard so much about. (Some details are held to the “What stays in Vegas” policy 😜). – Val Forin 

“Our briefings with companies are always super valuable to me but the after-hour dinners and parties give you a very candid picture about everyone’s experience in work tech.

That’s the stuff you never get if you don’t go.” – Lance Haun

Keep an eye on the Work Tech Weekly and Work Leader Weekly newsletters for more in-depth coverage and headlines from work tech brands and live events. If your brand needs help creating defining moments at their next event, we’d love to talk.