Last Friday we wrapped up the 17th Annual HR Technology Conference, what I believe was an extremely successful event and for attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, press, analysts, bloggers, and everyone else in the large HR Technology community, a professionally and personally valuable experience.
For me, who spent the bulk of my time in 2014 planning, preparing, organizing, promoting, and then for lack of a better term, hosting the Conference, it will still probably take a few more days/weeks for everything to settle in and to take the feedback and observations from the last week and incorporate that into next year's planning process. But I did take the weekend to kind of decompress, tried to stay (mostly) offline and catch up on my sleep, and to think about my initial thoughts about the Conference that I would like to share, and more importantly, to publicly thank at least a few people that played an important part in the event this year.
First - three quick general thoughts about the event
1. I thought there was great energy and enthusiasm at the event - in the Expo, at the General Sessions and Awesome New Tech demonstrations, during the parts of concurrent sessions that I was able to see, and of course at the receptions and dinners that I attended. Even by last Friday, Day 4 of the event, we had a lively and engaged audience for the Awesome New Startups demo that started EARLY at 8AM, and then for Ray Wang's closing keynote. Excitement or engagement is a really hard thing to measure, but so many folks stopped me to tell me that they just felt a better vibe around the show this year, that I wanted to mention that. I want HR Tech to be energizing and fun, and I hope we succeeded in that.
2. After a certain point, size becomes a real challenge. This year the Conference had a record number of speakers, sessions, and even keynotes that made for the 'biggest' HR Tech Conference to date. And while we are really proud of that, we also have to acknowledge that with the increase in size and scope, that it has become just about impossible to see everything and meet everyone that you would like to at the event. I did think that the physical layout of the show was such that the long, long walks of prior years were lessened, but there were still times where I know that I personally could not make it to where I wanted to be in time. I will try to find ways to manage this going forward, but if I was not able to talk or meet with you at the event, I do want to apologize for that.
3. Some folks come a long, long way to attend HR Tech. I noticed this the most on Friday morning, before and after Ray's closing keynote. Since the event was just about complete, and I was almost out of things to worry about and do, I had a fair bit of time to just chat with attendees. And that morning in the space about about 15 minutes I met (and took photos with), attendees from China, India, Pakistan, Abu Dhabi, Brazil, Belgium, Australia, and New Zealand. That was really fun, and kind of cool. And also serves to me as a great reminder that attendees make a huge investment of time and resources to attend HR Tech, and we need to continue to work hard to deliver a great and valuable Conference and experience.
Second - Keep, drop, and make new
The big challenge with taking over a long-standing and successful event is figuring out how much to change, what to leave as-is, and what/where/how to try and move the event into a new direction. And that process of evaluation for an event like HR Tech is an ongoing, and sometimes inexact one at that. As for some of the new elements we introduced to the show this year, (expanded opening day/night, a more 'Technical' track, and an overall increase in sessions/speakers), I think for the most part they went over well. So I would expect all of that to continue on into future events. We also tried to stay true to what has been traditionally been a strength of the event - detailed case study type presentations from HR leaders at many of the world's leading organizations.
Finally, early reports seem to suggest that an increased focus on HR Tech startup technologies, in the Expo Hall as part of our first-ever startup pavilion, and with our inaugural 'Awesome New Startups for HR' session, were both well-received. Of course, I welcome your comments and feedback going forward on what to more of, what to do less of, and what new things we should bring to the show.
Third - Some folks I have to thank, (and I apologize in advance to not be able to list or mention everyone that I should, just like the Conference has grown to make it almost impossible to talk with everyone that I would like, I can't possibly name everyone here that I should thank), for their incredible contribution to the Conference this year. But I am going to try anyway... (these are presented in no particular order, just streaming them out as they come to me)
Kris Dunn - KD stepped in at the 11th hour to take on a pretty big spot in the Agenda that came open due to a very late speaker cancellation. There are not many people who would have been willing and able to step in like that especially considering he already was leading a session later in the day. Huge thanks to the Capitalist for taking that on.
Laurie Zaucha, Sara Hill, Coretha Rushing, and Ashley Goldsmith - These four HR leaders were the participants in the 'Modern CHRO' panel that I co-hosted along with Trish McFarlane. This was a great group of HR executives, were easy to work with, and reminded us all what true leadership looks and sounds like. I want HR Tech to be a place where we see and hear from the absolute best of the best in HR, and these panelists exemplify that completely.
Trish McFarlane - In addition to Co-hosting the Modern CHRO Panel mentioned above, Trish also led an Expert Discussion session on HR Technology implementations about which I heard fantastic reports. But beyond that, she was a great sounding board and source of excellent advice throughout the event planning process. And she co-hosts my favorite podcast the HR Happy Hour Show!
Jason Seiden - Jason launched his new startup BrandAmper at the Conference, as one of the participants in the first-ever 'Awesome New Startups for HR' session. This was not without risk, pressure, and probably some lost sleep. But Jason and Lisa Cervenka did an amazing job (like all of our startups), and I hope to see them back next year on the Big Stage!
John Sumser - John led one of our sessions in the new Ideas and Innovations track, his on Computational HR, and while I was not able to sit in on the session, it probably was the one that I feel the worst about missing. He is also a remarkably nice and generous person that has contributed much to the event and to me as well.
Michael Krupa - Mike did a tremendous job not only personally serving on a two-hour long panel in our 'Tech' track, but also serving to help create and coordinate several other elements at the show. Plus, he is one of the very few people I will allow to hug me in public.
Naomi Bloom - Naomi did a tremendous amount of work in the run-up to the show, coordinating and helping to program what was a very successful Tech track at the event. Sadly, she was unable to actually participate live at the event due to a medical issue. But she had prepped her panel so well that they were able to carry on, and she stayed engaged with the event on Twitter throughout. Get well soon, Naomi!
Mike Psenka - Mike runs the Workforce Analytics team at Equifax Workforce Solutions and not only did he present a great session with Whole Foods, he also allowed Trish and myself to crash his team dinner once again. Mike and the Equifax team are a super nice bunch of people that I enjoy spending time with at HR Tech each year.
Ed Chase, Dave Shadovitz, Vicky Dennehy and the rest of the LRP team - It goes without saying that probably 95% of what happens to deliver an excellent experience to the HR Tech community goes on behind the scenes, and out of sight of most. But the LRP team does such a fantastic and professional job getting the thousands of elements aligned to present a great show for everyone. Trust me, you don't have any idea what goes on out of view, and you probably don't want to know, but the LRP team takes it all in stride. Many thanks to all of my colleagues for everything you do.
All of our attendees, speakers, exhibitors, analysts, sponsors, and friends - We have such an engaged, vibrant, and enthusiastic community around HR Tech that in many ways that makes my job easy. So thanks to everyone who was at the event last week. There are literally thousands of you who contribute to the event, each in your own way, and that adds up to a remarkable and valuable community of people that make what I get to do really fun and amazing.
Thanks again and please do mark your calendars now for the 18th Annual HR Technology Conference - October 18 -21, 2015 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Have a great week!