I was reminiscing recently about my first (solo) SHRM Annual Conference experience in Chicago many years ago. I recall vividly how gigantic the conference center was and how overwhelming it all felt. As a long-time conference veteran, I often see that lost look on the faces of attendees, and always stop to assist. I've been there.
For those of you who may be attending for the first time, I offer a few tips to help you make the most of your conference experience.
#3: Prepare Your Session Schedule
Visit the SHRM22 Annual Conference website to peruse speakers, pre-conference offerings, networking events, and all general/concurrent sessions. Click on “Program” at the top, then select “Full Schedule.” This takes you to a page where you can scroll through the entire conference from beginning to end. You can also search by keyword, the type of pass (Virtual or In Person), by day, by event type, by learning track, and by competency. Take each day/time in bite sizes. Consider your own career aspirations and professional development. What are some gaps and areas of opportunity that could help advance your career? If your company is paying for your attendance, think about the most critical needs of your company and what sessions you could attend to help support those needs. You may even find it helpful to sit with your leader(s) to discuss what options might be most impactful.
Also, it is helpful to have a backup to your first choice. Sometimes the sessions are full. Sometimes you just don’t feel like walking across the entire conference center to get to the next session, so it’s good to have a backup (or two).
#2: Wear comfy shoes
Speaking of walking, the conference center is huge. You are going to do a LOT of walking throughout the day. (I average 20,000-25,000 steps in a day.) You are going to want shoes that will not give you blisters or cause pain. I cannot stress this enough. I made the mistake of wearing high heels one year, and by mid-day my feet were killing me. From then on, flats, tennis shoes, and, yes, sometimes flip flops. Comfort is key on this topic.
#1 Invest in Your Professional Network
I wish I had had a mentor early in my career who stressed the importance of networking and intentionally investing in relationships with peers. Networking can be terrifying. I promise, you are not alone in not knowing where to start. It’s hard to connect in a sea of 18,000 people. Luckily, SHRM makes it a little easier by creating spaces where you can intentionally connect with others – such as the Networking & Virtual Experience Orientation, the SHRM Certification lounge, the Smart Stage and more. (If you’re attending virtually, check out the virtual Networking Peer Group Ideas Swap.) Everyone wants to connect and belong. Be intentional about those connections. The conference feels a whole lot smaller when you see a familiar face or two.
If you’re on LinkedIn, Instagram and/or Twitter, follow the hashtags: #SHRM22 #CauseTheEffect and #SHRM22Influencer. Engage with the author(s) by responding and sharing. There just may be an opportunity to connect in person with the folks you “meet” online!
The SHRM Annual Conference is an opportunity to grow your community, challenge your assumptions and mindsets, and leverage the knowledge and expertise to Cause the Effect in your workplace. I always say that our industry begins and ends with people. You never know what insights you’ll gain from others’ experiences and wisdom, or what friendships develop from a common interest. One of the most powerful tools in your HR toolbox is your network. Networking isn’t about exchanging business cards. It’s about intentionally building relationships.
There is still time to register for the conference experience that works best for you (in-person or virtual). Check out the SHRM22 Annual Conference website for a list of speakers, concurrent sessions, pre-conference sessions and networking events. Save $100 off new, full SHRM22 conference registrations* thru May 20th using the code SHRM22_INFLUENCER.
*This offer is exclusive for the full SHRM22 Annual Conference & Expo–in person or virtual– and is not applicable to Day Passes, special rates or other promotions. Promo code SHRM22_INFLUENCER must be used at the point of checkout. Offer expires 5/20/2022 at 11:59 PM ET. Offer not valid on previous orders and cannot be combined with other discount offers.