With only one of me while both major HR technology conferences — if you haven’t attended the HR Tech World Congress, you may not realize that it’s become as large and as much of a must attend as the wonderful and separately owned/produced HR Tech Conference & Expo— are scheduled over just 10+ days later this month, I’ll be doing two sessions in Paris and taking my industry meetings there in 2015. With greater separation in their 2016 scheduling, and if I’m invited to speak at both shows in 2016, I’ll hope to see you in both Chicago and Paris. But whether you’re going to both shows or just one of them (and I can’t imagine that any of you will be missing both of them), it’s time to finalize your preparations so that you get the most out of your time in Paris and/or Las Vegas.
If you’re anything like me, from the time you arrive in Paris and/or Las Vegas, it will be:
- non-stop vendor/industry meetings,
- exhibition hall booth visiting (I make a valiant effort each year to stop at everything single booth, but now Paris has gotten so large that many of these visits will be flybys with no disrespect intended),
- session attending,
- session delivery,
- intense but wonderful hallway and restroom exchanges (do guys do as much substantive chatting and networking in their restrooms as we do?),
- 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’ve just turned 70, a landmark birthday in so many respects, and am still 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. But another byproduct, at least in my case, is that I’ve got sufficient mobility challenges that those of you whom I’ll be meeting for the first time this month in Paris should know that I’ll be using an electric scooter, otherwise known as my magic carpet, to get around your much larger conference facility.
#Tip #10: Get dates for #HRTechConf and #HRTechWorld 2016 on your calendar and in your budget right now. With both shows approaching parity in both attendees and vendor exhibitors, even as each has its own special flavor and areas of emphasis, if your organization and/or your own career has global underpinnings and/or aspirations, you’re going to want to attend both shows, so get that budget justification in process now.
#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 up to me after my 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 HCM and HR technology all over. And I would definitely get your foreign language skills in gear — a MUST if you’re hoping to support global organizations or becoming a global citizen yourself — whether you’re planning to attend the Paris conference or just take a gondola ride at The Venetian in Vegas.
#Tip #8: Bring a swag carrier if you’re flying in and plan to carry your giant stuffed toy home in your lap. Ron can’t imagine coming home from Paris or 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), international electrical plug sets, great bottles of wine, and books we’d really like to read, but please no more vendor-branded tablet or phone covers. The risk of meeting with Vendor A with your iPad wrapped in Vendor B is just too high.
#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. Having spent three weeks in France last year, I think their idea of shared restrooms — common sink area and a collection of stalls into which you slip as they become available — has real merit. Why should women be waiting on line while stalls in a separate men’s room are free? And sharing the sinks would also provide opportunities for mixed gender ad hoc discussions of conference-related topics — or not.
#Tip #6: Attend as many sessions as possible. I do because, at least when there’s NO sales crap allowed, they’re generally excellent. Come prepared to be an active listener, to take notes, to provide a twitterstream for your colleagues who couldn’t attend in person, and to boo any speaker who dares to give you a sales pitch or to trash their competitors. And the best thing we can do to support the hard-working men who program these conferences — so Peter Russell for the Paris show and Steve Boese for Las Vegas — is to complete those evaluation forms, adding comments as appropriate.
#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 as well. Save at least a few brain cells for the second day of sessions; you’ll thank me if you do. And for those of you attending the Paris show, surrounded by some of the greatest wines in the world, I’ve learned my lesson about indulging in too much of those wines at the mid-morning coffee break.
#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.
#Tip #3: Carry a water bottle and refill it at every chance you get. Convention center climates are designed to dessicate, and they don’t always have enough refreshment stations. Lately I’ve been carrying a protein bar or two in my briefcase, something you may also want to consider. And I could also suggest that you bring a restorative flask, but we HR people would never make such a suggestion.
#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….
#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 D’orsay 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, but you’ll be limping by noon if you don’t select your shoes carefully. And speaking of that magic carpet, we finally found, in an English antique shop, a suitable horn so that I can give fair warning before running over fellow conference goers.
#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, VC moola has been flowing into all things HR technology, so there are going to be a bazillion vendors at both conferences of which you’ve never heard.
I’m sorry that I won’t be seeing more of you in Las Vegas as I’ll be there just long enough for the Brazen Hussies event and a few industry meetings. But I’ll be in Paris for the entire show, and I’ll hope to see you there. Whichever you attend, have a terrific conference, and be sure to say thank you to the conference organizers.