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  • Writer's picturePaul LaLonde

Back to the Future! A #WISHRM21 Guide to Help You Prepare for In-Person Conferences!

Wisconsin State SHRM Conference SMILE Team members!

“We all have to make decisions that affect the course of our lives.” – “Doc” Emmet Brown

The last in-person conference I attended was the SHRM National Conference in Las Vegas. No, not the one that was just held this past September, but the one held in June 2019! It’s been over two years since I felt that rush of being at a gathering of peers! I don’t need to go into why I haven’t been to another one since then, I assume.

That all changes THIS WEEK, as I prepare to attend the Wisconsin State SHRM Conference in the Dells! I’m incredibly excited. I miss interacting with people. I miss learning from my peers and my heroes. I miss the side conversations, the informal discussions, the little things that make conferences amazing and so reinvigorating.

So, I had to think… it’s been two years! How does this work again??? Well, I figure some of you may have had the same question, or for first time attendees, they may be asking, what should I expect at a large-scale conference?

Well, as a way of helping myself prepare for this once yearly ritual, I present to you, tips and tricks to help you prepare for attending a HR conference!

Act I: Pre-Conference Packing

  1. Listen to the HR Sushi Bar Podcast SMILE Team Introduction for WI SHRM Pre-Conference prep!

  2. Comfortable lightweight backpack or side bag to carry all your items.

  3. Laptop or tablet with chords!

  4. Note book and nice pens if you’re a note taker!

  5. Portable recharging pack for your cell phone or other devices.

  6. Refillable water bottle.

  7. Baggy of “toiletries” such as hand sanitizer, hand lotion, cough drops (if your throat is dry due to allergies, if you’re sick STAY HOME), mints, cap stick, and eye drops for contact wearers – or folks with dry eyes or allergies!

  8. Business cards – just in case an old school network contact needs your info. Otherwise, many folks can find one another on LinkedIn if you ask! But sometimes, vendors have prize drawings if you drop your business card in their fish bowls.

  9. Oh, and make sure you have an extra mask just in case!

Act II: At the Conference

  1. Dress comfortably and in layers.

  2. Bring a light sweater just in case. Sometimes, those rooms get cold!

  3. COMFY shoes. You do a lot of walking.

  4. Download the Conference App in the App store! If you can’t, print the schedule to bring with.

  5. Schedule your day. Make sure you know which sessions you want to attend, and where they are at.

  6. Have a back up session just in case the session wasn’t what you thought it was. It’s not that those sessions aren’t full of great info. It’s just in case it’s not the right fit or need for you at that moment like you thought it’d be.

  7. Make sure you have your Twitter app open so you can follow the live Tweeting! Use hashtag #WISHRM21 and #SMILETeam! Follow the fellow #SMILETeam members Mary Williams and Jeff Palkowski!

  8. Visit the vendor booths! These conferences could NOT happen without the vendors, who help pay for a large portion of the events. Show them a professional courtesy and thank you by visiting them. Don’t just take the sweet swag, but if there’s something that could benefit you and your organization, talk to them! These vendors are people too, and are just trying to do their jobs.

  9. NETWORK! Talk to folks about why they are at the show, who they are seeing, and what they’re learning! Talking shop is fine, but take it to the next level by asking about that person’s deeper motivations and interests! That’s where real, meaningful conversations begin!

  10. HAVE FUN! Remember, this is a rejuvenating event for you to recharge your batteries. Work will still be there when you get back! Don’t ignore the emergencies, but prioritize yourself and your learning experience!

Act III: Post-Conference

  1. If you haven’t done so already, reach out on social media and connect with any new friends or peeps you met! Do the same for any presenters that you saw.

  2. When connecting, send them a brief into as to why you’re connecting! If you saw a presenter, tell them you wanted to connect to continue learning from them since you enjoyed their session at WISHRM. This adds more of a kind personalized touch! When genuinely done, it’s a game changer.

  3. Make a list (mentally or otherwise) of things you learned and want to implement at work! Think about preparing a great business case to convince your boss.

  4. Remember that conferences are meant to help you continue your journey, not a fun one-time event where you forget everything once you’re back at the office (or home office).

Did you have any tips and tricks you’d like to share?? Please leave them in the comments! THANK YOU for reading, and looking forward to seeing you at WISRHM 2021 Conference!

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