I’ve been to more than my share of HR Tech Conferences – as a practitioner, a consultant, a vendor/exhibitor and an analyst. This year I’m adding speaker to that list.
Throughout all of that I’ve learned a few tips and tricks on how to manage the days and nights to really maximize your experience at the event – depending on what type of attendee you are…
As a practitioner
- Sessions – Look at the schedule before you arrive and pick out 3-4 sessions a day to attend. They don’t have to be “the it sessions” that you read about on blogs or press. They need to be things that seem interesting to you. If you aren’t interested then you would be better served skipping it and engaging with others. By attending things you aren’t REALLY interested in, you will miss out on a lot if you do that. Talking to other practitioners, analysts, vendors, attendees between sessions will give you great insight for your own issues and questions or allow you to dive into things that matter to you.
- Expo hall – Don’t miss this. I know that sounds silly, especially if you aren’t looking to buy right now, but the expo hall is filled with research, case studies, thought leaders and new innovations in technology that will be coming down the pipeline. Long gone are the days where vendors just fill the booth with sales people trying to push, instead, many vendors now have their product management team, leadership teams, etc on the floor sharing thought leadership and practical ways to use solutions. Not even just their solution, but solutions. Education has become almost as common on the expo floor as in session.
- Nights – Every night there are parties. Lots and lots of parties. And parties with amazing food! (Check out the infographic below of some of the favorites if you don’t believe me.) But make no mistake, while these are fun and exciting, they are still a great place to meet people and have interesting conversations about things you are passionate about in our space. Its a great place to find those people you may follow on twitter or via blogs, speakers, analysts, etc and say “hi” ask questions about their sessions, etc. As a practitioner, you should never have to buy food or drinks during HR Tech. Ever.
As a vendor
- Briefings – If you are a vendor that will be doing briefings during the event, these should already be scheduled. Odds are you won’t be able to grab many bloggers or analysts for a “quick 30 minutes” at this point. Make a note and start your scheduling next year in August. A lot of us are fully booked by early September. If you do have briefings, understand that 30 minutes really is 30 minutes, we are often booked back to back to back all day long and an extra 5-10 minutes could throw off everyone’s schedule the rest of the day. We love you and love learning about your product, but we have to be strict with our time.
- Sessions - If you are one of the few lucky vendor reps with a full conference pass – use it! Pick out 1-2 sessions a day that relate to you and your product. Hear what the discussion is like. Think of it as a free focus group in a generalized format. If you are only listening to what your clients and internal team wants, you are missing out on the potential buyers and future you may not have thought of. Its amazing how often the conversations spark new product and business ideas!
- Expo hall - Don’t miss this. I know that sounds silly, since you probably have a booth. But check out the expo hall – walk around, talk to potential partners, see what is new and up and coming in the world of hr tech. Don’t discount a product because its not in your area of focus – the ideas and fundamental user experience for everything in that room is targeted to the same type of buyer. Most importantly, don’t be “that vendor”, typically the first or second year vendors come out very agressive from the sales vs. education side and claim stupid things like “we are the only ones doing this” when someone else is doing almost the same thing the next row over.
- Nights - Every night there are parties. Lots and lots of parties. On Sunday/Monday nights, don’t miss them. Tuesday do your team dinner (if you aren’t heading home). Make no mistake, while these are fun and exciting, they are filled with business opportunity so nurse those drinks a little longer than you would on a night out with your friends. I’m amazed how many vendors skip the events and even more amazed how many deals get closed based on conversations started at an after hours party – not the expo floor. Did you catch that? I said Conversations started. Don’t try to sell. Don’t be “that guy” at an event. Have conversations, if someone thinks you are interesting they will ask who you are & what you do. That isn’t an open invite to pitch your product, its a soft invite to exchange cards and briefly mention what you do.