While many of you attending HR Technology Conference next week are running around the hustle and bustle of sessions, grabbing coffee on the way to the expo hall and hitting parties at night – I will be sitting in a room with no windows and my little table where 25 Vendor Executive Teams, equity funds & VC firms brief me on why their product is the best. They want to tell me why it is the one that will change the world, why I should work/partner/care/write about them and (for some) get some insight on how to improve what they are currently doing based on current and future market demand and where I see the industry going.
You see, unlike a lot of people that have popped in to our space the last few years to do blogging, marketing, strategy, etc – I have been in this HR Technology space for 15+ years (pretty much my entire adult life) with most of that time focused on Recruiting & Talent Management Software.
I am also a student of it.
Learning at its core is a pretty easy thing. But one that many professionals, especially leaders, struggle with because admitting you are learning means you don’t know everything. And the older I get, the more I realize a lot of people really like to pretend to be experts vs admitting their weaknesses.
I know a lot, but I don’t know everything…and never will.
This industry, and life, is about constant learning.
A lack of learning is what makes and breaks companies, people and industries.
I have seen it a thousand times. I can predict the success of a start-up after meeting with the CEO and leadership team with a scary high level of certainty.
I learn with every conversation and interaction I have. And from a business perspective, HR Technology Conference has been the venue that has given me a masters degree worth of learning every single year. If you do this event right, you will be amazed at how much smarter you are when you leave!
Here are 3 Tips to Make Sure you LEARN while you are at HR Tech (or any conference)
- Be strategic with your sessions. Don’t go because your friend is speaking. Don’t go because you like the companies products – look at what will be presented and at 20 minutes in, if it isn’t for you – leave. On the flip side, use your own judgement about stats and what is being said. There is a crazy stat that 94% of companies use social to recruit. No they don’t. The company that reports that has a benefit to stating that. Know when you are getting pitched.
- Go to the expo floor. Do you know where some of the most knowledgable people at the conference are? In the booths. Try to bypass all the consultants and “experts” trying to pitch you and head towards the booths of the products that you find interesting. If it is slow, talk a little. Tell them about your company and ask how other companies like yours use the product. You’ll see quickly if you have a booth babe or a sales guy that gets it. There are quite a few that really get it and have the insight of seeing how the technology is utilized in a variety of companies.
- Go to the parties and don’t try to sell yourself. One of the quickest ways to make people run away is to talk shop or pitch yourself (even practitioners do this!) when you first meet someone. We are all at the same event, away from home, been talking about HR tech all day – at the end of the day, we want to talk to you about human things. The view, kids, your home town, how tired you feel, the band, etc. Build a relationship with someone before you go in for the kill and remember you have nothing you need to prove to anyone other than you are a nice, normal person.
Very early in my career, Gerry Crispin pulled me aside and told me the only advice he had for me was to retain my passion for learning. And he was right. I hope this is a great reminder for you as the party invites come in and the schedule fills up to take a little time to make sure you are getting what YOU need out of the show…outside of a little time in Vegas.