And The Drums Played On & On & On at HR Southwest…

Kathy Rapp Conferences, Kathy Rapp

This is my quick report from HR Southwest where “HR Training Camp” was the theme for 2011.  As usual, the conference team did a bang up job with the conference logistics, quality of promo materials, keynote speakers, communication with presenters and facilities.  It is not easy to put on the second largest HR conference in the nation…and these folks do it well.

I emphasize “quick” report as I spent less than six hours at the actual conference.  I really would have enjoyed staying the full 2.5 days as I typically do; however, they kicked off the conference on October 31st this year.  Now, I recognize Halloween is not in the same “holiday” category as the big dogs like Thanksgiving or Memorial Day, but it is a BIG holiday for me and especially this year as it was my daughter’s 1st Halloween.

So…I had a bit of a dilemma for all of 10 seconds.  I was NOT going to miss Kate’s 1st Halloween.  My choice and I stand by it.

What I DID miss out on was professional development, networking, reconnecting with peers, branding opportunities…plus I didn’t catch the KD & Sackett show which funny enough was in the same time slot as Mr. Tincup’s prez.  Looking back I’m glad I didn’t have to make that important choice.

I’m guessing a few other folks bagged out to make Halloween with their kids OR did not come on Monday OR did not come at all.  While my session had a record crowd of over 300 (note: shameless pat on the back), the opening ceremony seemed to have a number of open chairs.

My other concern with this year’s conference was the theme.  Training Camp – really?  Is this how we’re going to attract more senior level HR pros to SHRM conferences?  Then as I looked through the educations sessions, approximately 43% were about benefits, avoiding legal issues or compliance focused.  Hmmm, not going to draw me or likely many HR Director or above types to those sessions.

Part of my presentation spoke about the trend towards m-learning.  I told the group chances were in the next 10-20 years, conferences like HRSW would cease to exist in their current format.  My hope is the time-line is actually much shorter as we (HR pros) have to do something to shake up the HR conference scene to truly grow and develop more junior talent, while engaging and exciting more senior level talent about our profession!  Side note: I’m also with Mr. Tincup regarding banning swag.

Vernice Armour, known as America’s first African American female combat pilot, was the keynote who kicked off the conference and she rocked.  Not only did she incorporate stories and humor in her presentation, but she spoke about HR’s responsibility to “engage”; meaning, take the risk, walk through the door, put yourself out there, etc.  Yet as the audience walked out, heads were down and I saw no one taking the opportunity to reach out and introduce themselves to someone new.  No one was taking her permission to engage!

As I reflect on my self-imposed short visit to this year’s conference, I’m perplexed.  One of the more head-scratching moments involved an awesome drum corp group who greeted the crowed on the 31st at 7:30AM and played until the doors opened at 8:15AM.  Forty-five minutes of really, really, REALLY loud drumming which meant you couldn’t hear the person standing next to you.  Yet another opportunity lost to engage. Download IMG_1061

Next year’s theme: “The New Frontier” Building The HR Universe.  Perhaps we can tag along with the Star Trek Convention in Vegas?  Vegas OR  Ft. Worth??  Hmm, another tough call.