HR Technology 2011 – Observations and Conclusions

Posted By on Oct 5, 2011


After attending hundreds of industry events I’ve come to rely on a single meaningful measure of a conference’s success or failure – the attendee. Although that seems obvious, I’m not speaking to the post-event survey or paper-based ranking of a given session. Instead I walk the floor, listen to what folks are discussing, join in spontaneous conversations and chat up the coffee line to ensure that the lens through which I view the world isn’t disproportionately rose (or fecal) colored. It’s a tried and true method that only those suffering from a slight case of “lanyard neck” can truly appreciate.

Having just returned from the 14th Annual HR Technology Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas, I can safely assert a truism that I believe all attendees will corroborate – this is the preeminent HR collective where actual business gets done.

What Type of Business, Exactly?

The beauty of this event is that every type of imaginable commerce fills the halls, briefing rooms, expo booths, plenary sessions, hospitality suites, evening events and intimate dinners. Whether you’re a VC seeking to invest in the highly lucrative human capital space or a CHRO who has been tasked with securing the proper solution to what ails you, this is the place to be. Analysts swarm through a cacophony of client and provider briefings. Providers explore and consummate reseller, co-marketing, OEM or M&A transitions among their peers. Practitioners digest and procure the latest thought leadership and solutions on mission critical topics ranging from workforce analytics and talent management to social media and the candidate experience. Pundits engage in punditry. Bloggers blog. Tweeters tweet. Action is taken, minds are expanded and relationships are built.

This is why we take time from our busy schedules to throw ourselves into a foreign environment for 3+ days of frenetic activity. Over the years this particular machine has perpetuated itself because everyone who you would want to meet is either in attendance or wishing they could be. And I mean everyone.

Seriously Though, How Was It?

This was a banner year for the ever-expanding and constantly changing HR technology industry and Bill Kutik and the entire LRP team should be applauded for pulling off record attendance and a terrific event.

Could some of the signage have been better? Yes. Was the sponsored wifi (thank you ADP) spotty and unpredictable? Yes. Did some practitioners and vendors lose their minds, drink too much, make out with strangers and pass out in front of slot machines with their badges still on? Oh yes, they did (see me offline for photographic evidence of said monkey business). But perhaps the “work hard/play hard” adage shouldn’t exclude the thousands of attendees who worked their tails off during the day only to shake their tails off after dark.

It was Vegas after all.

What’s The Big Takeaway?

There is so much to consider when attending this event that I believe the biggest challenge is time management. One finds themselves in a constant trade off between dozens of competing priorities and opportunities.

Last year I mentioned that briefings were taking a valuable number of attendees away from the well-planned session content – this year was no exception. There are at least a hundred people that I wanted to see and there simply was not enough time for all. As I sip a strong coffee (did I mention it was in Vegas?) and attempt to recalibrate my sleep cycle I can’t help but wonder how the show could either be expanded or slightly reorganized to allow for the consumption of more meaningful content. Fortunately I’m just a lowly consultant so these issues are better left to conference organizers.

Final Thoughts?

This is best review I’ve ever given to a conference and there’s a reason. No, I was not paid to plug the event (quite to the contrary). Instead, I simply believe that we often struggle to find a place where we can combine our passion for our industry with the love of those who serve it. To progress professionally while engaging personally is a fine balance that’s rarely attained. I’d like to congratulate this event for walking that tightrope to the benefit of all.

As one first time conference goer told me, “The difference I see in this event is that the advice is truly actionable. It makes me feel like there is not only an energized purpose to my HR work but that I can actually pull it off!” You can. And if you can’t, I’m sure there are a few thousand fellow attendees who can show you the way. Well done all and I’ll see you next year in Chicago.

11 Comments

  1. Few observations: You’re a fantastic writer. You’re a cool dude to hang with. And you’re spot on about the conference! Bill and the LRP team keep finding ways to make the best show in the space even better! Thanks for capturing the essence of the experience, and thanks to all involved! Now to makin’ the great things we saw, shared, and experienced come to life!

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    • Thanks so much for the kind words Al. It was great to meet you and I think you nailed the call to action with, “Now to makin’ the great things we saw, shared, and experienced come to life!” Without that this is all just intellectual gymnastics. Thanks again!

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  2. I couldn’t agree more. An absolutely brilliant use of my time, with a ton of learning and time spent with valued colleagues who are also good friends.

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    • It’s the one conference I endeavor to meaningfully participate in each year Naomi. Great seeing you and we’ll talk again soon!

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  3. Mark, I couldn’t agree more! My only wish would have been to clone myself so that I could have been in multiple places at the same time. For instance, I would have liked to have had a coffee with you. Good seeing you in the halls however fleetingly and thanks for your par excellence tweetstream I will reference when I coalesce my own thoughts.

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    • We were like the HR Tech Blue Angels, Lisa – lots of smiling flybys and then we were gone. :) Looking forward to your write-up as well and hope the trip home was uneventful. Thanks for the comment!

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  4. What conference was this you went to, Mark? I think I was there, too, but never have the experience you describe for yourself and others. Too damn busy racing around.

    I was particularly delighted to read your quote about how HR Technology energized a practitioner about his work. Paul Smith, now @Pazmuz and a blogger, described the same thing two years ago.

    Gee, maybe it’s true?!? That would be swell.

    I also loved your description of the agora that HR Technology has become. Al is right: You’re wasting your time doing voiceovers and consulting. More writing.

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    • Thanks for taking time from your wedding to comment Bill and have a fun and relaxing honeymoon in Italy. The “agora that HR Technology has become” will be waiting for you when you return. :)

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  5. One of the best Conferences that I have been too in a long time. thanks Bill for the post and great information about HR Technology being sizzling these days.

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  6. From the comments alone, it sounds like a wonderful experience for everyone who attended. Is there one for this year? I feel like I want to attend if one would be held this year.

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