After a long, long, LONG wait I was fortunate to attend another SHRM Annual Conference in Las Vegas. It had been over 800 days since the previous conference (SHRM 19), and it was incredible to finally attend a live conference in the newly opened, state-of-the-art West Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. As I reflected and quite honestly, recovered from the conference, several words and key takeaways came to mind that I wanted to share. Excitement. Enrichment. Encouragement. Engagement. Exhaustion.
This was my third SHRM Annual Conference and my second participating as a member of the SHRM Blogger/Influencer Team. As a SHRM Influencer, I not only was able to attend the event, but also share my experiences with attendees (in-person and virtual) and those that were unable to attend over social media. Providing these updates was a wonderful experience and I was honored to be joined by some great HR professionals on the SHRM 21 Influencer Team. You can find our posts on LinkedIn and Twitter searching under hashtag #SHRM21Influencer.
While there is always anticipation for a SHRM Annual Conference, there was certainly much more this time around, considering the long wait since the previous conference in 2019. It was exciting to finally see colleagues for the first time in over two years as well as meet new friends that I have only connected with online. There was a definite ‘buzz” in the air for this conference and it was so fulfilling to personally witness 8,000+ HR professionals gathering live and in person again.
The takeaways from this conference were amazing. So many concurrent and Mega sessions to choose from as well as some very inspiring keynote speakers. Some of the highlights for me included the personal journey shared by Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps, the power of optimism as told by Life is Good CEO Bert Jacobs, and lifelong demonstration of perseverance as described by the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” Ms. Opal Lee. Ms. Lee showed us all what determination, vision and passion can bring and encouraged all of us not to “have what happens in Vegas, stay in Vegas” and remember that “If people can be taught to hate, they can also be taught to love.”
In addition to the general sessions, I attended Concurrent, Mega, and Smart Stage sessions in many different tracks, and some were led by friends such as: Steve Browne, Louis Lessig, Tina Marie Wohlfield, Claire Petrie, Amanda Brunson, and Christie Engler. I took away great content and ideas from each session that I was able to attend and feel that each session provided me with great ideas to take back to my workplace.
The conference certainly lived up to the theme, “Now More Than Ever.” From uplifting messages about resilience maintained throughout the pandemic, to well-deserved support for our essential workers, to a moving tribute on the 20th anniversary of 9/11; there was so much to be encouraged by. SHRM CEO and President Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. reminded us of the importance of human resources, not just during a pandemic or crisis but always, and to be focused on our people. As an HR professional, you could not help but feel energized and encouraged after leaving this conference.
For me, networking and engagement is the most important aspect of the conference that I always look forward to. There were opportunities to reconnect with those that I have not seen since the previous annual conference, meeting people that I have only interacted with online, as well as making new connections with HR professionals from across the country. As a SHRM 21 Influencer, I had the opportunity to share my experiences throughout the conference and engaged with many individuals across the globe over social media. These engagements will allow me to stay connected with so many great people until the next conference as I added some amazing folks to my personal and professional network.
Yes, “conferencing” (I think it is a verb) is hard. To make the most out of each day, I arrived at the convention center early, stayed late, and continued to network and connect throughout the evenings. Fortunately, my lessons from previous SHRM Annual Conferences served me well as I learned to better pace myself, take self-care breaks, stay hydrated, and wore comfortable shoes. Returning to work Monday morning after the conference was rough, but it was all worth the lack of sleep to experience all that this conference offered.
Others that I am sure also shared in my exhaustion were the hard-working people that helped make this conference a reality. From the hundreds of volunteers that arrived early and stayed late each day, to the many SHRM staff members that worked tirelessly over the past five and a half months to pivot to deliver a fall conference in Las Vegas, know that we all recognize and appreciate the demanding work and energy that each of you put into this conference. Thank you!
Well, within 24 hours of the end of SHRM 21, I had already reserved my hotel in New Orleans for SHRM 22! While I have several SHRM events that I hope attend between now and SHRM 22 which include: Wisconsin SHRM State Conference, SHRM Volunteer Leaders Business Meeting, and SHRM Workplace Policy Conference; the 2022 SHRM Annual Conference & Expo in New Orleans is clearly marked on my calendar for June 12-15, 2022, and I hope to see you there! #SHRM22