June 27, 2011

Day 1 of SHRM National: Exhausting, Overwhelming, and Enjoying the Moments

Day 1 is down and out in Vegas. I had a friend send me a text this morning asking me how’s Vegas. I responded in one word…exhausting. It has been non-stop since I got off the plane on Saturday. Between the networking events, after hour events, SHRM Expo hall, and then the general opening sessions on Sunday, I am tired! I need a week off just to catch up on my sleep! The time zone change doesn’t help either but that’s a whole other story. So, what did I learn in my first day?

My thoughts coming into this event were correct. You have to be spontaneous…live a little on the edge. The conference can be overwhelming as there are a lot of things going on – all at the same time. That makes it difficult to determine where to go and when. But, if you go into this experience with an open mind, you won’t be disappointed.

I would highly recommend finding a conference buddy. A conference buddy is somebody that you can experience the conference with so you’re not wondering around the Expo Hall alone, or being the embarrassing diner of one. I found a conference buddy on Foursquare and then we connected through Twitter and then made the connection that matters most…the in real life connection. Even though I know a lot of people at this conference, I did not come with a co-worker/friend/other, so it was nice to have somebody to attend various events with and even browse the Expo Hall with. During the process of the day, I connected with a few other new friends and went out to dinner. This is what the conference is all about…making, hopefully, life-long connections. Because, as much as I love Social Media, it does not compare to those real-life connections that we need to be making in life.

Speaking of connections, my conference buddy made a connection of his own. He got to meet Carla Hall of Top Chef. After taking a picture with her, they got to talking. Well, she seemed to love his velvety voice as she asked him to announce her at the conference. Now, I don’t know what she is doing here and why she needs to be announced as I don’t watch Top Chef and don’t see the connection, but still, that is kind of cool! These are the experiences that the conference is all about.

The Expo Hall itself is busy! You will not get to every vendor (not that you would want to) in one day. Focus on those that you absolutely must see. For me, I had to stop by and see those people that I know (vendors that I do business with currently, vendors that I want to do business with, and friends that I have made along the way). Everything else you can take or leave. There are some really cool exhibits. Monster (@MonsterWW) has an amazing rock-star like set-up, complete with game show and host. You definitely don’t want to miss that one. Manpower (@PoweringTheWow and @Manpower_US) also had an interesting exhibit complete with caped crusaders, who proceeded to snatch unsuspecting Expo goers, throw a cape on them and force them to take silly pictures. Their booth reminded me that it’s okay to let go and just have fun!

In terms of the after-hour networking events, you will not…let me repeat…will not have time or energy to get to them all. I would highly recommend signing up for them all as you need a ticket to get into most, but there is no way that you will find the time to make it to every single one of them. Even in a town like Vegas where everything is in a pretty well-defined area, it is impossible. Again, living in spontaneity, let the evening take you where it may. You may find out about an under the radar event, or based on the group you are with at that particular moment, you may decide to veer completely off-course. That is okay. I know that is hard for some of us that live and die by their calendars (Me! Me!), but trust me, that is where the fun is, especially in a city like Vegas. I am interested, though, to see how SHRM will top this next year in Atlanta. The convention center there is near Lennox Square, and while there are a lot of great shops and restaurants, there is not much of a night-life, but I am reserving judgment.

I will leave you with this…plan but be open to modification, take your vitamins, drink energy drinks, whatever you need to stay awake, as there is little sleep to be had. Enjoy the after hour events in moderation as there is no fun in waking up with a hangover and having to be clear-headed to attend a session in the a.m. And, above all else, enjoy the moments.

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