- non-stop vendor/industry meetings,
- exhibition hall booth visiting (I make a valiant effort each year to stop at everything single booth, but especially the US show (with no connection to the Amsterdam one) has gotten so large that many of these visits are flybys — no disrespect intended),
- session attending,
- session delivery,
- intense but wonderful hallway exchanges,
- time with valued colleagues and long-standing industry friends,
- an occasional meal and more than an occasional drink,
- tweetups and meetups,
- our annual Brazen Hussies gatherings, and more.
I have just celebrated my 68th birthday (it was 9/24 in case you want to plan now for next year) and am basking in the afterglow of another year well-lived. Living large, personally and professionally, honors those who never got this far, and the number of loved ones who didn’t grows longer with each passing year. One of the byproducts of aging that’s rarely discussed is how many friends and family members you outlive, and each one of those losses really hurts.
#HRTechConf tip #10: Get #HRTechConf and #HRTechEurope 2014 on your calendar and in your budget now. With Steve Boese taking over Bill Kutik’s impresario role for the US show, I’m sure we’re in for some surprises. But I’m counting on Steve doing a bang-up job of continuing the tradition of great session topics and presenters which has made the US show the absolute best in class. And Marc Coleman and Peter Russell will be one year further along, in 2014, their own show’s growth and learning curve. Ron and I are already planning for next year, and I hope you will do so ASAP.
#HRTechConf tip #9: Talk, talk, talk and listen, listen, listen because sharing questions, ideas and experiences with colleagues is the point. Bring your list of the folks you follow most on Twitter and make it a point to meet them. Come to my “ask the expert” sessions and hit me with your questions. And do feel quite comfortable approaching almost anyone about anything reasonable; it takes a village, and that’s HR Tech all over.
#HRTechConf tip #8: Bring a swag carrier if you’re flying in or plan to carry your #Monster home in your lap. Ron can’t imagine coming home from #HRTechConf in Las Vegas without a new monster, and who’s going to tell him that we’re overrun with them here at HQ? And if you’re a vendor doing some swag planning, we love: umbrellas (the rainy season is on right now, and you can never have too many), interesting stress reduction toys, cuddly creatures (why doesn’t anyone ever give away big stuffed alligators), shoe bags (those soft ones in which you pack your shoes when traveling), towels (all sizes appreciated), t-shirts (medium for Ron, XL for me — embarrassing but true), but please no more vendor-branded iPad covers. The risk of meeting with Vendor A with your iPad wrapped in Vendor B is too high.
#HRTechConf tip #7: Leave room in your schedule for serendipity and for nature breaks — well at least nature breaks. I’ve met some amazing women during those nature breaks; I can’t speak for what goes on in the men’s room.
#HRTechConf tip #6: Attend as many sessions as possible. I do because they’re excellent, and at Bill’s show there’s NO sales crap allowed. Woe be it unto any vendor who tries to slip a sales pitch into their session because the Kutik has both a loud gong and one of those long sticks with the curved ends they used in vaudeville to pull bad acts off the stage. Organizers of the Amsterdam conference, which is really still a startup, are working hard to ensure that program content is as free as possible of overt selling from the stage, and I’m quite prepared to support them in this effort with my collection of noisemakers.
#HRTechConf tip #5: Don’t try to attend > 3 vendor parties after a long first day of sessions. I hate missing all those great parties, but my party all night and work all day years are behind me — and behind many to most of you. Save at least a few brain cells for the second day of sessions; you’ll thank me if you do.
#HRTechConf tip #4: Plan your conference in advance. With what vendors do you want to schedule extended and/or private demos? Make those appointments now. What attendees with whom you share specific issues/vendors/industry concerns/etc. do you want to meet? And if you’re all on the same true SaaS product, you won’t have to waste a minute asking each other what release you’re on! Do that outreach and arrange those meetings now. Pick your sessions and, because there are too many good ones for just one person, find a buddy with whom you can divide and conquer. Better yet, bring a whole team to these conferences and cover the ground.
#HRTechConf tip #3: Carry a water bottle and refill it every chance you get. Convention center climates are designed to dessicate, and they never have enough refreshment stations. I could suggest that you bring a flask, but we HR people would never make such a suggestion.
#HRTechConf tip #2A: Assume that the convention center will be too cold/too hot/too drafty/too whatever, and dress accordingly. We’ll be overrun with executives from across the industry, buyers and sellers, so you may want to lose the flipflops, cutoffs, and anything that reveals parts of you that I’d rather not see. Here I’m showing my personal biases, but business casual does not translate in my book into anything lower down the sartorial scale than clean pressed jeans, a similarly clean ironed t-shirt with at least short sleeves, most of your tattoos tactfully covered, and shoes. Of course, these suggestions only apply to the granddaddy of HR technology shows, the big Kahuna, in Las Vegas. Our Continental colleagues lean toward business formal, as in dark suit and tie. Hmm….
#HRTechConf tip #2: Wear your most comfortable walking shoes. There will be few places to sit except in sessions and long convention center distances. Yes, I know that my younger female colleagues will want to show off those Manolo platform spikes — the latest in fashionista circles — and I don’t blame you, but be sure you’ve got a suitably designed male colleague at the ready to carry you after the first hour. Having done my fair share of spike heel time, I’m convinced that there’s a direct connection to my now arthritic joints. It doesn’t matter what shoes I’ll be wearing as I flash by on my magic carpet. And speaking of that magic carpet, we finally found, in an English antique shop, a suitable horn.
#HRTechConf tip #1: For vendors of greatest interest, do your homework in advance, preparing the mental scenarios that you’d like to see, so that booth time is hands-on demo time. And be sure to spend time on the floor checking out some of the newer/smaller vendors. There’s a ton of innovation going on in our industry, and it isn’t always on offer at the flashiest booths. In spite of the heavy industry consolidation, The Kutik tells me that there will be more booths this year in Vegas than last, and I for one am not very familiar with some of the smaller European vendors for whom Amsterdam is their chance to shine.
Before I post this, I wanted to mention one other great suggestion that’s not entirely mine. In Las Vegas, be sure and tell Bill Kutik how much you value all he’s done for our industry by organizing these fantastic town meetings. He’s worked his butt off to make sure that our time at these conferences is the highlight of our professional year, and it shows. You should also follow my lead in wishing Steve Boese well and pledging our support as he picks up the maestro’s baton for 2014.