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 RecruitingBlogs.com (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:
- Are HR Certification Institute recertification credits important to you?
- Is there a specific issue in your organization that, if you became more expert and returned with practical learning, you could improve or solve?
- Do you want a traditional conference experience or do you want a more participatory experience?
- Do you like smaller, more intimate learning environments or do you prefer the energy of hundreds of learners?
- Do you want a global orientation or a domestic orientation?
- Do you want theory or practical application?
- Do you want to be inspired and motivated or do you want to roll up your sleeves and learn new concepts and their applications?
- Do you want access to the speakers while you’re in attendance?
- 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 www.eventbrite.com/event/657023174 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!