Know Before You Go to HR Tech
The biggest conference in the world about what you care about most requires tremendous preparation both physically and mentally. Unless you’re happy to get half the business benefit available to you there. If so, pack whatever you want, read nothing in advance, get on the plane, don’t think about it, get to registration on Tuesday, even Wednesday morning, get the printed Show Guide and just browse during breakfast. Wing it. I only spent 16 years of my life – and Steve Boese, six of his – making this the Greatest Show on Earth for people just like you! But if you want to blow one of the greatest opportunities of your career, don’t read another word.
Before the Conference
So you’re still reading. Good. Now go read every word you can get your hands on about the conference. Start with every word of the entire program on the biggest screen you own: http://www.HRTechnologyConference.com Sure read it on your phone if you like reading 10,000 words there. Really great if you saved one of the several printed brochures you probably got before buying a ticket. Then you can see the entire program at once, though there will be a half dozen changes before you arrive. Check in your bag for those, usually on a bright yellow sheet.
But with the brochure you can circle the sessions you want to attend, check for the maddening time conflicts between them in the centerfold, and then go to the personal scheduler on the mobile app (or, I believe) on the web app and create your session schedule. You will need your user name and password created at registration.
What to Pack and Wear
Ladies, if you’ve attended a business conference before you know the ugly truth and pack for it. All conferences are air-conditioned for men to be comfortable wearing a blazer or suit jacket. Particularly terrible since they like the room cooler than you do already. It may still be blistering hot outside in Las Vegas, but it will be early Fall inside the Venetian. And Vegas does cool off from an average day-time of 81 to 57 or so at night.
Gentlemen, it’s your call. You will see guys in suits and ties, in suits without ties, in blazers with and without ties, in khakis and blue Oxford dress shirts (PeopleSoftwear circa 1993) and whatever. Geeks don’t care what they’re wearing and neither do the Venture Capitalists roaming the Show Floor dying to give them money. Who are you and what kind of impression do you want to make? Decide before you go.
Everybody: It’s a convention center. You know the distances are ridiculous. You will walk more in a day than you might living in Manhattan. I recommend some treadmill work before arriving and definitely wearing the most comfortable walking shoes you own that aren’t embarrassing.
Your Other Meetings
HR Tech isn’t just the conference sessions. It’s serious time talking to vendors on the show floor; watching a demo in their booth theater; maybe attending a one-hour demo in the special private rooms; even visiting their hospitality suite in the hotel with The Man or The Woman if you are really far along and serious. Whatever stage of engagement you’re at, plan in advance. Have a list. Call your contact at the vendor, book appointments with the senior executives who will be there, if appropriate. Show floor time ends up feeling very short. Maximize your use of it.
Everybody has a thousand different things pulling them in an equal number of directions at HR Tech. If you want to be one that wins, ask now. September 10 is way too late. All the good time slots will be taken.
Then, of course there are your colleagues. If you work with a distributed workforce, this may be the only chance you get to see one another. Book a dinner together Thursday night, when the fewest parties are going on. Or sneak off and buy lunch together in one of the dozen restaurants at the Venetian. Breakfasts tend to be hurried.
Finally, serendipity, my favorite part of HR Tech. If your company is sending two or more people, you must never sit together at meals. You will sit with strangers and be constantly gob-smacked by the people you know in common with these strangers. Or the terrific work things you have to talk about. The meals are great, and sometimes the food is, too.
Talk to strangers in elevators. Look at the escalator coming up as you go down. If you’ve been before, you will spy old friends. Hopefully you’ll have their cell number and can talk to meet later.
Best advice I can give you.
Other than Bill Kutik, I’ve probably attended the most HR Technology Conferences – Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia and, of course, Vegas. Each year, we get bigger and better. Here’s what you need to remember:
You’re in Vegas so there’s a ton of temptation diverting your attention. Plan your priorities ahead of time in order to meet with all the vendors on your wish list. Don’t leave it to chance because if you’re hoping to bump into someone in a hallway: it’ll never happen. This conference is huge, fast-moving and frenetic.
Leave fashion at home and think practical. No one cares if you’re wearing sneakers – in fact, we’ll be admiring your comfortable footwear. There’s lots of terrain to cover so don’t attempt to break in the new Cole Haan shoes or Kate Spade heels at this show.
Don’t wait to the last minute on anything – that includes food, water, transportation and rest rooms. Stop before you need to.
Our conference content is world-class. Presenters vie for the earned speaking slots – we do not pay speakers – and they are the best of the best. Take a moment after a session to introduce yourself to a speaker and exchange contact info. Stay in touch. It’s your best chance of connecting first-hand with the industry’s movers-and-shakers.
Make time for sleep. Our days start early and end late. There’s lots of fun stuff to do and lots of bright shiny objects to chase. Don’t run on empty.
The best swag is available right before the expo floor closes. You heard right – swing by the expo floor before the exhibitors pack up – they don’t want to take it with them!
Most of all, enjoy the HR Tech Conference. It’s been designed specifically for HR professionals. We fret over every detail to make sure you have an outstanding conference experience. It’s the place to see and be seen so make every moment count!
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Bill Kutik is a leading independent expert on HR technology, one of top five influencers and leading impresario. Host "Firing Line with Bill Kutik" on YouTube, broadcast-quality video series, for last five years. He has written more than 200 columns spanning 29 years. He organized and moderated panels and public interviews since 1995 as well as co-built the world's largest conference, HR Tech, from 1998 until 2013. He formerly hosted “The Bill Kutik Radio Show” with 183 programs in archive.
Jeanne Achille has helped launch and promote thousands of new tech products, services and companies. After a successful run as a sales & marketing exec, she started Devon with no outside funding at a time when women-owned tech businesses were considered atypical. Within a year, the company was profitable and 100% “client-funded.” As CEO of Devon, Jeanne has supported numerous successful exits from initial public offerings to strategic mergers and acquisitions. In addition to her role as senior strategist at Devon, she is the program chair for the Select HR Tech Conference and the Women in HR Tech Summit, which is held at the HR Festival Asia in Singapore and the HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas.