It's now less than one week until what is in my completely biased view as the Conference Co-Chair the best annual event for HR professionals, the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas. If you are coming out to the event next week, and I hope lots of readers are, I wanted to serve up my slightly better informed view than most list of the Top 10 Tips for getting the most out of your HR Tech Conference experience.
So here goes, (in no particular order, save this is how they came to me in a semi-coherent state late last night).
1. Take advantage of the Conference's 'Welcome' day activities on Tuesday, October 7
For the first time ever at HR Tech, we will have a pre-conference educational session (no extra charge for full conference attendees), a 'Welcome' keynote from author, speaker, and all-around smart-as-heck person Rahaf Harfoush, and an Opening Reception (with drinks and appetizers) in the Expo Hall, (which will too be Open and with the Exhibitors ready and eager to meet you.
2. Don't go overboard on Tuesday night
HR Tech is closer to a marathon than a sprint. I suppose it is more like a 10K or maybe even a half marathon. Either way, you jump out of the starting line all full of energy and adrenalin and excitement, but after a couple of miles of running at a pace you know you are not ready to sustain you are definitely going to hit the wall. And it might get ugly. In fact, seeing as it is Vegas, it almost certainly will get ugly. My point is you want to build slowly. And most of the really big, fun, over the top night time social events are on Wednesday the 8th and Thursday the 9th anyway. So have fun on Tuesday night, just remember you are not as young as you used to be. Leave something in the tank for the middle and end of the race.
3. Plan your days, but be flexible, and leave some time to explore
This year we have a record number of tracks and concurrent sessions. In most of the concurrent session time slots, there are as many as 10 sessions running at the same time. So you are going to want to spend some time in advance thinking about which sessions you'd like to attend, and even make a backup selection (or two) just in case we have to play nice with the Fire Marshal and cap off attendance in a session. But leave some room in your day to linger a little longer in the Expo Hall or take in one of the demo sessions that will be running on Wednesday or Thursday. Or even just to have some time to chat with some of the new friends you have made, (more on that to come). My point is this, it is a Conference, not a synchronized swimming contest - you don't have to know every step you are going to take in advance.
4. Don't travel (all the time) in the same pack
If you are attending the Conference with some of your co-workers, (which is great), make sure to not spend all of your time traveling in tandem. Split up and cover some different sessions, make sure to engage with other folks during general sessions and meals, and maybe even (horror), hit some different parties after hours. You want to make sure you are not just seeing and interpreting things through the same lens that you use back in the office, sometimes breaking away from your co-workers, even for a little while, can help you to do this.
5. Say 'Hi' to me, or rather, anyone that you really want to meet and connect with
Of course I want to meet as many people as I can, but you do too. And chances are you might want to meet and chat with one of our amazing speakers or one of our industry experts that will be leading Expert Discussions throughout the event. So make sure you do! All of these execs and leaders are extremely approachable and generous with their time and their insight. So if there is someone, anyone, you want to meet, then don't let a long line of people stop you from doing just that. One of the best aspects of the HR Tech community is how much everyone wants to help, especially HR leaders that are interested in how HR technology can help them and their organizations move forward.
6. Take a rest somewhere in the middle of the run
Ok, much like I am ready to take a breather half way into this post, (at about the 800 word mark and counting), at some point during HR Tech you will want/need to take a little time to recharge. This could mean ducking out a little early from one of the parties, taking a power nap back up in your room after the last session of the day and before heading out for the evening, or it could be as simple as passing on that third dessert from the buffet. All I am saying is you probably can't go full speed all day and night in Las Vegas for too long and come out feeling good on the other side. Find a spot to get some rest, maybe hit the spa or the pool, (it will be pretty hot), and get ready for the last part of the run.
7. It is ok to talk to the vendors in the Expo Hall. Even ones you have never heard about.
I know for attendees the overwhelming tendency of Expo visit time is spent walking from place to place, checking out the vendors you are familiar with and/or interested in learning more about, and maybe entering a contest or two. And while you can easily spend hours talking with vendors and people you know, or maybe are currently using in your organization, I really recommend spending some Expo time checking out and actually learning about at least a few vendors that you have never heard about before. Now I don't want to name specific names, (because there are just too many and I will get in trouble as I would have to leave some out), but you know who you don't know, (if that makes sense), and I can assure you there are dozens of amazing solutions just waiting to be discovered. If you are not sure who to check out, send out a Tweet on the #HRTechConf hashtag and just ask. Not using Twitter? Well that is a problem we will have to solve another day.
8. The General Sessions are big and crowded and long. Go to them anyway.
Yes the General Session rooms are massive. And crowded. And by the time you get there lots of the good seats are taken. But you still should attend them anyway. We have a fantastic panel on Thursday morning on the Workforce of the Future led by CNN's David Gergen and we have not one but two 'Awesome New Technology' showcases: one for more established providers on Thursday afternoon and one for Startups on Friday morning. You want to learn and be challenged in the Workforce 2020 session and you definitely want to be blown away by the latest and greatest innovations in HR technology in the 'Awesome New' sessions. These General Sessions bring the entire community together and you simply have to be a part of that.
9. Don't skip Friday.
Assuming you made your travel plans accordingly and are still going to be in Las Vegas next Friday morning, you want to make sure you drag your tired, sorry self out of bed to make it down for the last half day of the Conference. We have the previously mentioned 'Awesome New Startups' session, a set of great concurrent sessions, (including speakers from Facebook, Goldman Sachs, and CVS), and then what will be a fantastic closing keynote from the hardest working man in technology, Ray Wang. You can do it. It is only a half day and you can sleep on the plane.
10. And this is the most important one - Connect with as many people as you can.
This is kind of a boring tip since everyone who gives advice about these kinds of things always includes something like this. But just because everyone tells you to do this, doesn't mean it is bad advice. The truth is the most enduring value anyone (even me) gets from HR Tech or any large event comes from the people you meet, the relationships you build, and the connections you forge. Your next customer, next vendor partner, next boss, next employee, or maybe your next new best friend just might be at HR Tech next week too. But you have to take some initiative to connect. And for some folks, (again me too), that is not always the easiest or most natural thing to do. But you should try anyone. Even if you set a simple goal of connecting with even one or two new people each day at the Conference it will be worth the effort. And if you are finding that to be too hard, then find me and say 'Hi'.
Ok, that is it, I am out. I also want to thank regular blog readers who might have gotten a little tired of all the HR Tech Conference content on the blog lately. Next week there will be nothing new here (probably) while I am at the event, but I will get us back to the regularly scheduled nonsense after that.
Have a great weekend!