The 2016 AL SHRM State Conference is over and I felt I came away with a lot of good information. I also had a great time getting to meet and socialize with other HR professionals from across Alabama. And isn’t that the reason we go to conferences? It’s not for the free swag, or the free food/drinks, or even just the time off from work. We go to conferences because we want to keep our HR skills sharp and want the chance to network/socialize with the only other people who can understand what we face everyday.
Here then are my observations from the conference:
* I wish there had been free Wi-Fi available for attendees. I know we all have phones, and tablets, and Mi-Fi, etc. I know Wi-Fi can get expensive for conferences. But it’s 2016 and if you truly want you conference to have an active social media presence, you need to have free Wi-Fi for attendees as a minimum.
* It’s great that they had a conference app (more of a website) with the schedule, speaker information, and where attendees could access the speakers presentations after the conference. When you aren’t worried about writing down every word, you can focus and engage with the topic and the speaker. It makes for a better learning experience.
* The best part of the theme of HR superheroes was how everyone really got into the spirit of it. From the organizers, to the speakers, and even the vendors, there was a consistent message that felt authentic. People were excited about and engaged with the theme on their own and that always makes for a better and more memorable experience.
* It’s a shame that the first day wasn’t better attended, though there were still a lot of people there, because I thought the legal seminar (Matthew Cannova) and the diversity speaker (Marlin Smith) were really good. With the first day being only a half day, it has more of a pre-conference feel that makes you think it is optional. Making the first day a full day instead would help draw in the crowds and give them the opportunity to have more content.
* Matthew Cannova kept the whole audience calm, even when they started hyperventilating over the Transgender Bathroom laws topic. In fact, Matthew had some great information about OSHA & the EEOC that I hadn’t heard before. I appreciate that his approach was more about realistically understanding the risks. Don’t be afraid or react out of personal beliefs; do what is best for your business and plan accordingly.
* Marlin Smith did a great job demonstrating how diversity is not just about race. He defined it as the subtle differences between people, and even the differences between people in the same groups. I loved that his view was more encompassing and addresses the broader issues of diversity. It is not about polices and training; it’s about making sure that all your employees feel welcome, understood, appreciated, and respected.
* I feel shorter sessions on the second day would give attendees more learning opportunities. If you are like me and you hate to walk out in the middle of a session, you end up taking a gamble that the one you picked meets your needs. Also, shorter sessions are easier to sit through and remain focused.
* Laurie Ruettimann saved the day like a true HR superhero when she stepped in to deliver Tim Sackett’s Keynote when he was unable to come. It certainly helped that Tim’s presentation on HR Math and Analytics was on point, but what I love about hearing Laurie speak is the passion she conveys and how encouraging she is. When she is done you want to stand up and be an HR superhero too.
Whew, that was a lot to talk about and I didn’t even get into everything. Overall, I am happy to see AL SHRM do such an amazing job. All the organizers and volunteers were helpful and nice and worked so hard to put together a conference any state would be proud of. You can tell how devoted Alabama HR professionals are to elevating the HR profession here in AL and in general. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for next year.