Covered Over by Conferences!

I’m looking for a job.  So I’m networking.  A lot!  People in my network and in the networks of my network are so generous with their time and their referrals.  I’m very grateful. 

Most of the people I’m talking to are in or around the world of HR.  They’re either HR pros themselves, or they sell to HR pros, or they support HR pros in some manner.   They’re steeped in HR.  And many of them ask me a variable of the same questions:

“There are so many conferences aimed at HR people.  Which ones should I attend/sponsor/support?”

And you know what?   They’re right.  There are tons of conferences aimed at HR pros.  Let’s just start with SHRM.  There are 5 national/global conferences (not counting the leadership conference just for volunteer leaders).  Then there are the state conferences.  Some states put on conferences every other year; most put on conferences every year.  Let’s call that 40 state conferences a year. 

Then ASTD has a big national conference and 3 regional conferences.  WorldatWork has a big conference in the U.S. and at least one other big conference in Europe or Asia Pacific.  ERE has a bunch – 8 or 9 this year.  I have to mention RecruitFest! put on by (more on that at the bottom of this post). 

But if you do cursory research you’ll find a list like this:

    AHRD International Research Conference in The Americas

    Benefits Forum & Expo

    CUPA-HR Annual Conference & Expo

    Engagement and Retention Conference

    Advanced Employment Issues Symposium

    Government Talent Management Summit

    HR Star Conference

    Jacob Fleming HR Conferences

    Learning and Development Conference

    National HR in Hospitality Conference & Expo

    Annual HR Technology Conference & Expo

    People Report Best Practice Conference

    IHRIM Conference and Technology Exposition

    Onrec Online Recruitment Conference & Exhibition

    World Human Resources Congress

    Worldwide ERC’s Global Workforce Symposium

 And these don’t include the up and coming unconferences, like HREvolution, or the bigger for-profit organizations like AMA, The Conference Board, etc.

 So what’s a person to do?  How do you manage your professional development investments to achieve the most appropriate outcome for you and your organization?

 Here are a few questions you can ask yourself as you think through the complexity and variety of the offerings:

  1. Are HR Certification Institute recertification credits important to you?
  2. Is there a specific issue in your organization that, if you became more expert and returned with practical learning, you could improve or solve?
  3. Do you want a traditional conference experience or do you want a more participatory experience?
  4. Do you like smaller, more intimate learning environments or do you prefer the energy of hundreds of learners?
  5. Do you want a global orientation or a domestic orientation?
  6. Do you want theory or practical application?
  7. Do you want to be inspired and motivated or do you want to roll up your sleeves and learn new concepts and their applications?
  8. Do you want access to the speakers while you’re in attendance?
  9. Do you want to travel or stay closer to home?

Truly, there is something for everyone in the world of HR conferences.  Each conference organization has its own approach and style.  Most offer recert credits; some don’t.  Some conferences focus on one issue or area of learning; some cover the HR waterfront.  Most offer the traditional conference experience; some are experimenting and engaging their attendees in new ways.  Some will register as many as want to attend; some are beginning to limit the number of attendees.  Some have a global orientation from both content and speaker perspectives; many are domestically oriented by default.  Some feature academic presentations; others offer the practical application side of things from practitioners.  Some offer inspirational and motivational sessions to keep you mission-focused and energized; some are only focused on skill development and knowledge transfer. 

This may help you organize your thoughts as you sift through the ever growing number of choices you have.  Of course the big issue is your budget and the cost of attending.  More HR pros are having to chip in their own money to attend the conferences of their choice.  At the same time, it’s getting tougher and tougher for conference organizers to improve the conference content and experience without raising the price.  But trust me:  they’re all trying to do just that. 

So be discriminating.  Make sure the content meets your objectives, the learning style fits your personal preferences, the other attendees have something to offer, and that the total cost is within your budget.  Be thoughtful in your selection.  And be sure to provide honest and timely feedback to the conference organizers.  They desperately want your critical feedback!

Along the line of budget management and conference attendance, here’s a great deal!  If you’re considering attending RecruitFest! in Boston October 7-8, 2010, my readers can get a discount on the registration fee.   Early bird pricing ends on August 31, so now would be a good time to go to and register.  When you use my name – chinagorman – in the discount code box you’ll receive a 10% discount (including multi-ticket packages!).   Not a bad deal.  RecruitFest! is being sponsored by our good friends at Monster, so you know it’s going to be a great experience.   I look forward to seeing you there.  And if you attend one of my tracks, engage!  Be controversial!  Let’s get the conversation going!



Filed under China Gorman, HR, HR Conferences

10 responses to “Covered Over by Conferences!

  1. China,

    Thanks for the great list of conferences for our industry. As someone who is looking to do more speaking, this is a great starting point for me and others.



  2. Great post China (and sorry it’s taken me this long to chime in). I think you’ve offered some terrific ideas and that this is an area that’s becoming less clear and more difficult to assess. The one point that jumped out at me (which I agree with wholeheartedly) is to be discriminating and effectively know your destination before you arrive. In other words, think about how your participation helps you get from X-to-Y, regardless of what those objectives might be. Well done. 🙂

  3. Nicole

    Will you be at the SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference & Exposition in New Orleans? There’s alot of great new stuff going on this year… wish I was going!

    • Nicole: I wish I was going, too. One of the great perks of being an executive at SHRM was the ability to attend all the conferences. I miss that. I understand Shirley Davis and the team have put together great speakers and content this year.

  4. Hi China, Your new blog is great! I am an avid follower of your good work.

    Speaking of conferences, I’ll put in a plug for the Va SHRM conference – great content – great value – great location. Held September 29-October 1 in Roanoke, Virginia. The panel on”Lessons Learned in India” is shaping up to be really good.

    • Hi Kathy! I’ll be the VA SHRM conference will be great. I’m just sorry I have to miss the panel on India. I know you and our other colleagues who travelled with us in India last year will give an outstanding presentation. Wish I could be there with you to describe what an extraordinary experience we had. Thanks for you kind comments.

  5. Hi China:
    Great post! You’re right on the money in terms of your selection criteria. We really appreciate the RecruitFest! shout out, and we’re equally excited you’re going to be a track leader. It’s shaping up to be an awesome event, so thank you for spreading the word (and discount code!)

    This post is also a great resource for helping plan out event coverage during the year; thanks so much for putting this all together in one place. Now if only it synced with Outlook…

    Our team looks forward to seeing you at some of these conferences…in the interim, we’ll happily settle for more great writing and insights.

    Matt Charney (@monster_works)

    • Hi Matt: glad you liked the post. And I just scratched the surface. There are soooo many — and many more in the making. I look forward to seeing you in Boston and at other conferences. Hope folks use the discount code for RecruitFest! 10% is 10%…

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