Last week at this time I had just finished a morning walk/run around the Hard Rock Hotel property (which I loved and will visit again) and was getting ready to make my way to the convention center for the final day of exhibiting at SHRM14 in Orlando.
I arrived in Orlando on Saturday and made my way to the exhibit hall to make sure our booth was set up and everything was in order. So imagine my surprise when I found that the graphic panels for our booth were missing and GASP – so were our giveaways. “What no giveaways? Whatever will we DOOOOOOO”??
Allow me to explain.
You see – I am a reformed recruitment advertising
cheerleader person and I used to live and breathe “chachkies” – heck, the company I worked for had an entire department dedicated to job fair and trade show trinkets and bobbles. If you weren’t handing out those big plastic back massagers or heart-shaped highlighter pens, you’d be toast – your booth traffic would decline and you wouldn’t have as many cold calls to make. Well who likes cold calling anyway? But instead of falling into the depths of despair, something wonderful happened. We had meaningful conversations with folks that wanted to talk to US. They willingly gave us their business card to follow up and we didn’t have to lure them with tote bags or flashing necklaces (not that I don’t love a great tote bag)!
Now, if we had it to do it all over again, we’d make sure our exhibit items didn’t end up in the HR trade show Bermuda Triangle. But if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, trust me – as long as you have a great service that can truly make a difference and YOU know your stuff – you’ll survive. You’ll make BETTER connections with serious HR buyers who are there to learn about services to make their company better…..and that’s all that matters.
The last time SHRM national conference was in Florida (Orlando) was 2003 – 11 years ago! It was the first time I attended such a big conference; the exhibit hall was massive, and I was intimidated to say the least – but I quickly learned that I was in my element (meeting people and networking now ranks high on my list of things that I love to do), so even though I had to stand on my feet at a booth for hours on end, I loved every minute of it.
This time around I will be in the exhibit hall with my outplacement and coaching hat on, representing the Florida team of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. This is a part-time gig that I have had for over 3 years now, and there is nothing more gratifying than providing guidance and encouragement to folks who (for whatever reason) find themselves suddenly unemployed. My favorite part of the job is working with clients who know little to nothing about social media – that is until I get a hold of them <insert evil laugh>. Once they realize that this is the one part of their job search that they can actually CONTROL, it energizes them and gives them hope. One awesome lady that I worked with recently said that our sessions were “so uplifting” and she was even going to start a blog – and why not? She had been writing for her employer for years and was confident she could do it. WOW, it doesn’t get any better than that does it?
It’s All About Reconnecting.
Since I won’t have the opportunity to attend any of the great sessions, for me it’ll be about meeting new people and seeing all my social media pals “IRL”. But what am I looking forward to the most? The possibility of reconnecting with former colleagues and vendor friends from the past. And let me tell you, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the BEST of the best. If I think back to the companies I’ve worked for, I didn’t stay all those (12, 5 & 8) years with the same employers because they were perfect or had the best employee engagement strategies in place (trust me on that) – I stayed because they all seemed to have the knack of hiring great people who would eventually get along REALLY well with the team, share their knowledge and have fun. And we did.
So whether this is your first SHRM conference or your 10th – enjoy every moment, try not to be too shy so you’ll leave with some great connections, don’t forget to wear comfy shoes – and come visit me at booth #1449 and say “hello”!!
Now if I will only take my own advice. Ouch.