When I arrived in New Orleans armed with business cards and my gigantic smile I had no idea what was in store for me at the LA SHRM Conference. This was my first time participating in an HR conference and really my first opportunity to network on such a large scale. Let me tell you something, they don't disappoint.
The location was at the Riverside Hilton in Downtown New Orleans. A massive event center (and hotel) that was perfect for this event. Arriving a tad bit late into the registration, I seamlessly picked up my packet, Meet Meme cards, and tote bag and was well on my way to soak in all things HR. I love a registration table that runs efficiently.
In the General Assembly, the entire group gathered to go over the day's events, meet our emcee, Dwane Lay, and talk about some SHRM initiatives. Once the pleasantries were through it was onto our first Keynote speakers, the dynamic duo of Jason Lauritsen and Joe Gerstandt of Talent Anarchy to talk about Social Capital and their book Social Gravity: Harnessing the Natural Laws of Relationships. Within the first 5 minutes the speakers had the entirety of the audience up doing a "flashmob" dance (with Jason's own homegrown version of The Dougie). Thereafter it was all about learning "it's not what you know, it's who you know." Jason and Joe used a tandem method of storytelling and humor to keep the group engaged in the importance of "building social capital." This session was about being pro-active in network building and really set the tone for the conference.
The first session I attended was presented by Dr. Daniel Crosby, PhD and discussed change. This was a highly enlightening session (using Prezi) and really delved into the fundamentals of change management. Dr. Crosby challenged our negative perceptions that people actually want change whenever it's delivered appropriately, given support, and beneficial in the end. Dr. Crosby's education, research, and use of examples (like having conference participants create paper airplanes only to rip one apart) helped to drill in the idea that what motivates people is knowing they're involved in the change, not just "being told what to do."
The lunch area was right next to the exhibition hall (where the vendors were located) making it easy access to peruse some information, sign up for freebies, and stock up on swag during the well-planned 15 minute breaks in between sessions. There was also ample time before or after lunches.
After lunch, it was onward to another keynote session called The CEO's View: The Role of HR Leader. This session was a panel format and featured Rose Hudson, CEO of LA Lottery Corp. and Hugh Weber, President of the New Orleans Hornets and all moderated by Mary Ellen Slayter of Reputation Capital Media Services. In this hour we really got to "get inside the head" of the CEO and find out what they want and need from HR. Both CEOs were forthcoming and open with sincere answers. The key message of their answers said that they are there to motivate and drive the business. For them, the HR Manager is the key to getting, training, and keeping talent. They utilize their HR Managers as consultants and rely on them as an important cog in the clockwork.
The afternoon session was titled "Influencing Behavior" and built upon the "motivating change" theme that seemed to run rampant through the conference. Paul Hebert lead a great presentation that discussed ways to motivate and reward employees to go along with "change initiatives." Hebert's witty and visually-dynamic presentation made for a great session during the post-lunch dreary hours.
The last session of the day ended with a bang with Bill Boorman and his presentation (using Prezi) on Global HR. Bill emphasized the nontraditional methods of recruitment, employee engagement, and retention. With social media, flexible work settings and hours, and the burgeoning younger generation in the workforce, Bill's presentation emphasized that HR Managers keep up with trends and utilize them to the max.
Day 1 of the conference ended with a social in the hotel with cocktails and hor'durves. After a few giveaways (and the alcohol hitting every one's blood stream) the laughter and camaraderie began to flow. After my nerd war with Dwane Lay and some chit-chat with Jason Lauritsen, I filmed a spot in the "what I loved about LA SHRM 12". I also got to met Gretchen McKinney the event chair. This social was a perfect opportunity to get to know speakers and other conference organizers on a more personal level. The networking was amazing.
To end my evening, I joined two new colleagues (Caryn Sarvich and Juli Sholar) at the Palace Cafe for dinner on the streets of New Orleans. We took in good food, great conversation, and enjoyed the Big Easy atmosphere.
You can view Day 2 here!