Whether it’s your first (or fifteenth) time attending the SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition, here are a few key tips to make the most of your time in New Orleans.

1. Do your homework.

The best conferences are the ones where you plan ahead. Take your time studying the schedule and selecting both topics and speakers that relate to your current challenges.  Speaker bios can be just as illuminating as reviewing a session description, and help you to determine the most interesting industry experts. If a specific topic resonates with you, prepare some questions in advance that you would like to hear answered. SHRM also has a ton of resources online, including their conference app to help you create and manage your schedule.

2. Network, Network, Network!

Social events are not just a great place to pick up a free cocktail – they also allow conference participants to discuss industry news, trends, problems (and solutions!) in a more relaxed setting. With so many HR professionals wearing more than one hat, this is a great way to hear from your peers how they tackle challenges or streamline their workflow. There are a few opportunities to attend networking receptions in the exhibit hall, but every time you are walking between sessions or grabbing a coffee, don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation your fellow attendees – you’ll be surprised how much you’ll be inspired.

3. Solution Source

Exhibit halls are good for so much more than free souvenirs. The SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition brings together one of the largest and most extensive roster of vendors – use this to your advantage! Review the list of exhibitors ahead of time and set your visits. It’s a great way to get up to speed with all that’s new with HR technologies and methodologies. Prioritize making some time each day to walk through the hall and spend time with those vendors that sound interesting. Challenge vendors about their mission or technologies and have candid conversations about how their product would affect your day to day. Don’t forget – you can use the SHRM app to schedule appointments with vendors that pique your interest as well.  Use your time in the exhibit hall to round out the education that you are getting from the sessions, and find solutions that might make your life easier. And, of course, take away a few free souvenirs. 🙂

4. Be social media savvy.

With an event as large as the SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition, it’s impossible to be everywhere at once. Using the show hashtag #SHRM17 will help you see content from concurrent sessions you missed, or alert you to great giveaways or events being hosted by sponsors. Connecting with thought leaders and speakers on LinkedIn and Twitter will help you to find new content, or might guide you in your quest to select the best session. An added bonus? Most of speakers, bloggers, and other thought leaders will continue to offer content over the rest of the year – so even if you didn’t attend their session, you can still reap the benefits.

5. Bringing the right gear matters.

Don’t forget your business cards! With so many opportunities to network, you’ll want to make sure you have your contact information at all time. Dress for success by wearing lots of layers – temperatures can rise or dip dramatically depending on what part of the convention center you are in. Hydration is key, so bring a reusable water bottle that you can fill up throughout the event. Concurrent sessions, keynotes, and the exhibit hall can often be very far apart, so make sure your shoes are comfortable! There’s nothing worse than thinking you look great, but your feet hurt too much to get you to all the great sessions you planned on attending. Finally, keep a notebook, pen, and all your phone/laptop/tablet chargers on you at all times. With so much content at your fingertips, you don’t want to find yourself suddenly out of juice.

6. Share the wealth

The best part about the SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition? The smarts you gain. Schedule a meeting upon your return to cover key takeaways. Be sure to brief your manager on the value of your participation by sharing new ideas or solutions you’ve learned. Share copies of your notes or presentation materials. Highlight thought leaders that you think will help continue their education. By sharing all that you learned at SHRM, you become your organization’s thought leader.

Have a great time in New Orleans, and remember to enjoy the city and the atmosphere as well – it’s just as important to remember to have fun! Find yourself attending mainly sessions in the Talent Management and Acquisition track?  Stop by booth #2323 to see how SkillSurvey’s automated reference checking and sourcing solutions help our clients balance a focus on speed and efficiency with quality. Or come by to let us know if these tips helped you to have a more successful conference. Either way, we’ll give you a $5 Uber promo code so you can further explore all that New Orleans has to offer.

We look forward to seeing you at SHRM!

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