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  • Writer's picturePaul LaLonde

What Happens in Vegas at #SHRM19, Doesn’t Stay in Vegas – It Gets Blogged About! A Recap of My Incre


“Just hang around people, and good things will happen!” – Steve Browne

So, I am sitting on the airplane back to Chicago following my trip to Las Vegas for the 2019 SHRM National Conference and Exposition when I begin to ruminate on my time. I wasn’t sure what to expect being this year I attended as part of the SHRM Blogger Team. However, I can say without hesitation, #SHRM19 blew away any expectation I had.

I learned. I listened. I conversed. I laughed. I (nearly) cried. I experienced quite a bit. But most of all, I lived. This experience was, just as #SHRM18, life changing. As a pretty determined introvert, I used to keep to myself and build my walls. Being isolated, however, is no longer an option I give myself.

I planned on further exploring what this experience meant to me and my own professional and personal development on my personal blog at HR Philosopher, and this will be my jumping point into that – a beautiful recap that will serve as a bookend to my first foray into blogging for SHRM.

Five Meaningful Moments:

Honestly, it seems rather counterproductive to distil 96 hours into five smaller pieces. I had SO many amazing interactions, conversations, and experiences. By no means do I intend to imply these are the only moments that mattered. If I wrote a blog about all the things that were amazing at #SHRM19, this would be the length of War and Peace! I only wish to share what stuck out to me as exceptionally thought provoking, fun, or inspirational.

  1. Connecting with So Many People!


#SHRM19Blogger selfie from Anish! He’s the selfie master!

My number one goal for #SHRM19 was to meet as many people as I could. Veni, vedi, vici! I apologize in advance because I will inevitably miss some names. However, I wanted to give a shout out to the following peeps whom I met IRL for the first time! If you’re on social media, make it a point to follow and learn from these incredible HR pros!

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the colleagues, friends, and family I got to spend lots of time with over the past week learning from and getting to know on a deeper level.


The #StatelineCrew! IL-WI HR pros that meet up bi-monthly to engage in Shenanigans!

Overall, not a bad four days of connecting!!!

  1. Blake Mycoskie’s Keynote

Blake Mycoskie is the founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS, the shoe company built on providing a pair of shoes to children of underdeveloped countries for every pair purchased. I’m not a huge shoe guy, but I am learning! After his keynote, I will definitely purchase a pair of TOMS in the near future. What struck me was what a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and support Mycoskie is. He discussed candidly and passionately about his own personal mental health struggles and how he overcame them. As a passionate mental health advocate who’s written about the topic in the past here and here, his discussion resonated with me. I am so thrilled to see mental health discussions becoming routine rather than relegated to the darkness as in days gone by. In addition, he has a new venture in he works called Madefor, and I for one can’t wait to see how this goes at helping others through their darkest times.


Erich Kurschat’s Smart Stage presentation.

This was the first session I saw at #SHRM19. Erich Kurschat has fast become a dear friend, and to see him on stage at a large national conference made me smile! His session revolved around how introverts, such as himself, add great value to networking events. The common misconception is that introverts don’t network, but he wanted to prove that notion wrong by challenging attendees to go up to people they didn’t know and share their story with the hashtag — #NetworkLikeAnIntrovert! Some of the stories were pretty cool! He also gave a Smart Stage presentation on the power of collaboration. By the looks of the picture above, it went well!!! (That’s Erich on the left). Again, I am very happy for his continued success and presence on a national platform. It’s well deserved!


Introverts unite! We all went to our rooms to relax after this picture! 🙂

  1. SHRM Foundation Brunch – The Pullen Speech

I had the pleasure of attending the 2019 SHRM Foundation Brunch. The food was amazing! I mean, bacon bar, hello!?!? And mimosas? And the company was also great! I was loving it! But what made the event for me was a speech by Alexander Pullen. He’s a rising HR star who gave an impassioned speech on the importance of HR in the experience of everyday people. It gave me all the feels. You can see his speech here, and I highly recommend you take the few minutes to watch it. You won’t regret it!

  1. Jennifer McClure Follows Me on Twitter?!?!


Jennifer McClure and me after her Disrupt HR presentation. She’s so kind and gracious!

Lastly, I wanted to share that I have been a huge fan of Jennifer McClure, advocate for DisruptHR. I wasn’t missing her session on the topic, and I didn’t! In fact, I went full fanboy and rushed the stage to meet her! After I introduced myself and explained that I was a huge fan, she said “Yes, Paul, I follow you on Twitter. You post good stuff.” My mouth dropped like Wild E. Coyote noticing he was no longer on solid ground about to plummet hundreds of feet to the earth below! It’s not that I didn’t believe her, but I whipped out my phone to double check. She did follow me! It’s a small thing in the universe, but it made my day that someone as influential in the profession noticed me.

  1. One extra: #ThumbKyra!!!


Go to Twitter and search the hashtag. Hope you get a kick out of it.

Five Disappointing Moments:

As the Tao goes, all Yang must have a Yin. While #SHRM19 was overall something I will remember the rest of my life, I can’t help but feel like I left some money on the table… using a gambling phrase. By the way, I lost $100. I am still not over it… guess I could have lost more! 😊

  1. I wasn’t able to spend more time chatting with Dr. Karlyn Borysenko


The amazing Dr. Karlyn Bor

I interviewed Karlyn on her presentation Zen Your Work. You can read or reread it here and here. I felt a great connection to her through our interview, and I was so happy to meet her IRL. I attended her presentation and was so energized and excited after leaving! I wanted to sit down with her and discuss more! Sadly, time didn’t permit this. So, I hope she allows me the privilege to interview her on other items in the future!

  1. Missing Some Key Presentation

There were SO many high-quality breakout sessions and presentations, it was impossible to attend all the ones I wanted to or needed to. Presentations by Lara de Leon on Invisible Disabilities and by Gio Everduin on People Analytics particularly sting me that I missed. However, I am happy to report via Twitter that overall things seemed to go well regardless!

  1. Not getting to meet everyone I wanted to…

Too many to name. I just wish there was more time.


Roaming the exhibitor hall with Claire had it’s weird twists and turns!

  1. Losing the SHRM Foundation Step Challenge

I am a competitive person. I don’t like to lose. I was on the team Marchers4HR, led by my good friend Jeff Palkowski. For most of the day, we were winning! I could taste the victory, and then the tide turned around 6:00 p.m. We fell to second, then third, and never recovered. I was crushed (not really), and my feet felt like Jell-O puddin’ pops after logging over 31,000 steps (yes, really – ouch). However, the sting of defeat was quickly cooled when I reflected the reasons why I wanted to join the challenge. I joined the SHRM Foundation Step Challenge hoping to make an impact for the Foundation’s cause, which champions positive workforce and workplace transformation, such as disability work initiatives, hiring of veterans, and inclusion of senior workforce, at least in their 2019 plans specifically. I believe all steppers did a phenomenal job helping to support these causes! So, in the end, I’m not too disappointed about this loss. Because, SHRM Foundation won!

  1. Not visiting the Pawn Stars Shop

Chumlee is an American hero! I was hoping to haggle with him about the value of my great grandfather’s watch. He brought it from Germany in 1886, and the clock hands are sausages and when the alarm goes off every hour someone says Gesundheit! I swear it’s worth $75,000! Chumlee would offer me .50 cents, and I’d walk away disappointed, but know that the real worth is in knowing my great grandpa is wearing Lederhosen im Himmel singing “O du schöne Schnitzelbank!”

Nothing about that story is real. I just really used to like Pawn Stars.

Five Takeaways:


Leaving the Convention Center for the last time!

So, as I conclude my 2019 SHRM Blogger journey, I look back more deeply into what I learned along the way, and how it changed me for the better. My journey began in Chicago in 2018, and only intensified in Las Vegas in 2019. Thank you to everyone who touched me along the path.

  1. Our journeys never really end – they simply shift along the way.

  2. Put yourself out there, and good things WILL happen.

  3. Don’t let your fears and insecurities win. The only person who truly notices if your teeth are crooked is you!

  4. The people I’ve intentionally surrounded myself with are infectiously positive, supportive of who I am as a person, and want me to succeed, and that’s one of the best feelings in the world. As someone who hasn’t always surrounded myself with the right people, this shift has been a revolutionary act.

  5. HR as a profession is thriving! 20,000 people packed the Las Vegas Convention Center. 20,000!!! That’s a population greater than my current residence of Sycamore, IL! HR practitioners are hungry to learn, hungry to make a difference. That energizes me and reinforces that I made the right decision to focus on HR as a profession.

Now, it’s time to take all we’ve learned at #SHRM19 and bring it home with us. It’s up to you to Build Better Workplaces! Until #SHRM20 in San Diego, build yours! I want to hear about it in San Diego!


Steve Browne is an HR legend. #StatelineCrew members meeting with him after his session on HR Rising!

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