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5 Ways to Make the Most of the HR Technology Conference #hrtechconf

Are you headed to HR Tech in Las Vegas?  You are not alone, the main HR Technology event in the US has attendees, vendors and investors from all over the world coming in. While most corporate teams have this as the main event that includes both practitioners as well as the HRIS/IT side of the decision making, there is a lot of other movement going on at this event most people don’t realize – which is why feels so busy and can get overwhelming for attendees.

In addition to the connection of companies to potential products they may want to buy – Vendors are launching new products, brands or features – more than 80 this year – they also bring the executives and alliance teams looking for products to partner with, acquire or be acquired by;  Venture Capitalists, Equity Groups and other Investors are roaming the floor looking for their next buys, who is coming out to compete with their current investments and see how practitioners are responding to them; and, in a large meeting room a few feet from the expo floor Analyst and Press meet with all of them for “briefings” to learn about the products, companies and share insights from research and market trends we are finding.

HR Technology Conference is where the business of #HRTech gets done.

I’ve been to this event in nearly every capacity over the last 15 years.  As a practitioner, I found the event overwhelming the first few years I attended.  Since then, I have started to come up with better strategies and sharing tips I still use as I talk to people that are feeling that way or just don’t know what to expect.

Here are 5 Tips to Get the Most out of Your Trip to “HR Tech”:

Make a Plan Before You Go.

HR Tech is a large event with a lot of different things competing for your attention. Plus, it’s Vegas. It is really easy to get distracted and miss stuff you were set on seeing when you go in without a plan. The conference itself starts on Tuesday morning with the Women in HR Tech pre-event and includes a sold-out expo hall, break out sessions, side stages, pitchfest, and demo-rooms. After hours fill the nights and before you know it the week will be over. You can find the official schedule here.  (Tuesday morning I’m moderating a panel on “The Power of Pilot Programs” with some amazing women from Amazon, Ultimate Software and Koru – love to have you!)

Visit the Expo Hall.

Yes, going to sessions is essential – but you can learn a lot by spending time in the expo hall talking to the different vendors. For many, this is their big event of the year, so they send the more senior people. They also invest in whitepapers, research, and ebooks that they hand out at their booth freely. This additional information can be used when you get home to both to remember what a company does as well as provide stats building business cases, regardless of the products you choose.  Visit companies you have never heard of and simply ask “tell me more…”

Don’t Skip Over the Start-up Pavillion.

While I always see long lines for the big enterprise players, many companies could benefit from taking a look at what is coming up and available in the Start-up Pavillion. Located inside the Expo hall, each year a few dozen start-ups that have created new ways to solve problems pop up there, and investors, small businesses and forward-looking enterprise hr leaders take note. The booths are tiny, the conversations are often with the founders, and the marketing isn’t always as polished – but the tech is solid. Former start-up pavilion participants have gone on to be acquired by the biggest names in HR Tech while others have become the big names themselves.

Be Smart, Have Fun and Make Good Decisions.

As my son walks out the door to do whatever high school kids do, I always say “Be Smart, Have Fun, Make Good Decisions.” It makes his friends laugh, him embarrassed and has become something the boys all say in unison before I even have to say it now. I will give the same advice to you. Go to the after-parties, but don’t be the drunk hr lady on the table flashing for beads (oh, SHRM Atlanta). I’ve been attending HRTech for well over a decade – while in a leadership role in corporate HR, as an executive at an HCM vendor and an Analyst in the space. Trust me on this one – the time at these events can be as valuable as anything else, especially if you are in buy or research mode. The after-hours events, both official and vendor-sponsored, is where a lot of the conversation takes place. People are building relationships, not selling. Vendors invite other clients and prospects as well as analysts and influencers – ask questions, trade stories, find a new job…just do not sell.

Accept FOMO.

It is ok that will miss the sessions you wanted to see, parties you wanted to go to, vendors you wanted to learn about, people you wanted to connect with in person. Others will be posting cool pictures on the roller coaster or at a party you didn’t get invited to, and they will be having dinner at a restaurant you really wanted to try. It is all ok. You do you and what works for you may be taking a few hours alone in the afternoon to sit by the pool and decompress. It may be skipping the dinner and meeting back up with people at one of the evening events. For me, it’s getting back to my hotel room early enough to catch a bit of HGTV and be rested for the next day. Will I miss out on the club fun? Yes. Will I be glad I did the next day when I’m in meetings? Absolutely.

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Sarah Brennan

Sarah Brennan is a recognized HCM industry analyst and advisor focused on improving the impact of technology on people, business and the future of work.  Sarah Brennan has been named a top global influencer in HR Technology by more than 50 publications and shared her insights at speaking engagements around the world. As Chief Advisor at Accelir, she partners with HR Technology vendors and investors as an advisor, interim CxO role and on engagements focused on growth strategies, product roadmap & market education/evangelism. She also works with corporate teams enhancing talent strategies.

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