If you haven’t been to a SHRM Conference in a while, I would highly recommend thinking about it for 2014. It had been many years since I had last attended a National Conference, and this year’s 65th Anniversary celebration did not disappoint.
This year’s theme was “Becoming More” and the Conference delivered much more than I had expected. Along with 15,000 other conference attendees, we heard from former Secretary of State & US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, award-winning journalist Fareed Zakari and bestselling author Daniel H. Pink.
Inspirational guest speakers included Founder and Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS Shoes Blake Mycoskie and former US astronaut and space shuttle pilot Mark Kelly and his wife, Gabrielle Giffords, a former US Representative who was severely wounded during a shooting in Arizona. These speakers definitely tied into SHRM’s 2013 theme of Becoming More. Blake chose to become more and developed the One on One concept of donating a pair of shoes to a person in need for every pair of TOMS shoes sold, while Mark Kelly shared a very personal experience with the audience when he talked about the incredible journey that his wife Gabby had been through after the shooting incident. Gabby’s drive to never give up was very clear, as she bravely addressed the audience and answered several questions from our host.
The Conference ran like clockwork. Shuttle buses were constantly going back and forth to the McCormick Convention Center, and thousands attended the various sessions ranging from HR analytics, Health Care Reform, Global Mobility and Leadership Development. The SHRM Hive was a valuable resource for attendees, offering assistance and education on social media. LSHRM President, Allyson Wolfe and I attended the Conference together and learned a lot about Twitter. I set up my account and am proud to share that I sent out my first official “tweet.” The HRCI Hideaway was also a great spot to take a break in between sessions— what a great idea to provide space for certified professionals to stop in, have a snack and network during breaks!
The Conference entertainment was phenomenal, including a live performance by Kelly Clarkson who performed hits like “Since U Been Gone,” “Miss Independent,” and her new single “People Like Us.”
The Vendor Expo also provided many opportunities to learn about up-and-coming HR tools and resources. The vendors were very creative and provided fun and interactive games for attendees. A few of my favorite giveaways included a Coach bag, a pendant of the famous Chicago theater, and a solar-powered cellphone charger which was very handy!
Chicago was definitely a great location choice to celebrate SHRM’s 65th anniversary. During the conference, we were able to attend a rooftop party at a loft, enjoyed the incredible view at the John Hancock’s famous 95th, strolled down Michigan Avenue in the evenings, attended a private reception at the Art Institute and even had a chance to attend a dance party at the famous Chicago House of Blues, where DJ Jazzy Jeff entertained a packed house. I don’t think I’ve danced this much in years!
From the Global HR aspect, attendees from 70-plus nations converged for the SHRM Conference. Not only was I able to make some new connections globally, but the sessions I attended discussing best practices for international work was invaluable.
Overall, this year’s SHRM Conference was well worth the expense. Our KYSHRM Leaders also provided an opportunity for several Kentucky SHRM attendees to come together for lunch one day at the Bistro at the Sheraton Hotel. It was great to have a chance to catch up with representatives from throughout the state as well as to meet new Kentucky HR professionals.
I encourage each of you to think about attending next year’s conference in Orlando and to budget now. Attending this year has truly inspired me to become more: to involve myself more with SHRM’s programs, to personally develop myself with trending HR leadership practices, as well as to continue to incorporate the spirit of giving throughout my professional and personal endeavors.