My First but Certainly Not My Last SHRM Annual Conference – #SHRM18


It’s been three days since the 2018 SHRM Annual Conference in Chicago concluded, and I think I’ve finally recovered from both physical and mental exhaustion! (sleep does wonders)

While I’ve been a member of SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) for about 15 years, this was the first time that I attended a SHRM Annual Conference.  Since it was being held a little more than a two-hour drive away from my home in South Central Wisconsin, I felt that this was as good a time as any to attend.


How did I prepare for my first SHRM Annual Conference?  After a few moments of extreme anxiety (I’m a usual introvert and not a fan of large crowds) I started getting involved online.  I kept up with updates with the SHRM Annual Conference online communities, followed the SHRM Blog Squad, and interacted regularly on Twitter using hashtags: #SHRM18 #HRTribe #HRonPurpose #HRSocialHour and others.  I vowed not to “overplan”, which is my usual reaction, and tried to plan just enough, yet go with the flow.  With my online schedule set on my SHRM Conference App, I was ready to go!

First Impressions-

I’ve been to the conference site in Chicago, McCormick Place, several times but I was not prepared for the overall “SHRM Experience” that I immediately felt upon arrival. Banners, signs, volunteers, the branding was incredible and as one attendee remarked, “this is HR Disneyland!”  The volunteers and staff onsite were incredibly helpful and my registration went extremely fast.  With my badge and conference materials I was on my way….to where, that would be the question.

The Keynotes and Sessions-

With so many amazing speakers and sessions, I had a huge case of FOMO (fear of missing out) but made my choices and for the most part, stuck with them.  Some of the highlights for me were (in alphabetical order):

  • Michael Aitken – As a SHRM A-Team Captain, I always enjoy listening Mike’s public policy updates and he did not disappoint!
  • Steve Browne – HR on Purpose was the BEST session of the conference. Steve lives our profession as a real-life practitioner and reminds us all why we should or should not be in the HR field.
  • Jeb Bush – Pleasantly surprised by his knowledge of current issues and non-partisan solutions to today’s challenges.
  • Adam Grant – By a longshot, the most dynamic keynote speaker that I have ever heard.
  • Sheryl Sandberg – Having Adam Grant “interview” Ms. Sandberg was a unique and informative experience to have both on the same stage.
  • Smart Stage – The short, 18-minute “TEDTalk-esque” presentations were for me, one of the highlights of the conference.  So many great speakers and topics in a short period of time.
  • Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. – What can I say about Johnny? Dynamic, passionate, inspiring, funny, engaging…the positive voice and leader of SHRM.

Memorable Experiences-

  • Meeting Governor Jeb Bush during his book signing.
  • Opportunity to participate in a PayCom sponsored podcast “HR Break Room”.
  • Pentatonix performing live…just for SHRM.
  • SHRM Foundation LuJebnch – Learning about the great opportunities that SHRM is providing to promote our profession through scholarships and other means of support.
  • SHRM Steps Challenge – I had no idea how many steps I would be taking throughout the conference and was amazed at the end.  With our Team Marchers4HR finishing in the top 3, I had the privilege to represent our team at the final general session in the SHRM VIP section for the awards presentation.
  • All of the many, many networking experiences, connections and friendships made and solidified throughout the entire conference.


  • It may seem like hyperbole to say that a 3-day conference was “life changing” but clearly, this conference has impacted me both professionally and personally in more ways that I can count. In a word….transformational.
  • While the conference was a great opportunity to hear from a large number of world class professionals in my field during many sessions, the greatest takeaway was from the meetings and discussions with HR colleagues throughout the events.  These connections will continue long after the conference ended.
  • It took me only a one day to reserve my hotel and register for the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference in Las Vegas.  After this year, I now know what I will be doing in June each year.  To channel my inner Steve Browne, “I am GEEKED!”
Some of my #HRTribe with Steve Browne


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