I don't like Vegas. But this was the first time I had the time and the budget to attend SHRM. Also, this was the first city-wide conference I've attended that was not produced by my employer, so I was fascinated to see how it ran. Which leads to my first tangent:
At my employer's conference, I coordinate the shuttle bus transportation between the hotels and the convention center. This is my job because my predecessor (and first boss) had the job. He had the job because he asked, "What's the assignment at this conference that no one wants?"
A few years ago, I was at my desk on a random day when I got a call from one of my people. Matt was at the ASTD conference, another city-wide. He said something like:
"I just want you to know that I have seen what bad shuttle bus coordination looks like, so I know how good a job you do. Thank you."
So besides making my year, Matt taught me that if I ever attended a city-wide conference myself, Rule #1 was Stay in Walking Distance of the Convention Center. So we stayed at the Springhill Suites which had three added bonuses:
- Mini refrigerators for the unbelievable amount of bottled water I purchased.
- Free breakfast that did not suck.
- There was no casino in the lobby.
Sessions started at 7am on Monday and Tuesday. This was fine, but it meant keeping my body on Central time if I wanted to function. Last sessions broke at 5pm. I don't know how people went out and partied at night. Seriously, people. I am old.
I barely made it around the Expo - it was enormous. I found the Giveback.org booth, which was disappointing because they couldn't tell me much about the workplace giving program they were launching. It seems they were trying to get people to sign up as individuals in advance. However, they did give me a card worth $5.00 in donations so I was happy. I found a couple of other vendors I wanted to see and otherwise skipped the swag. But here is what I learned:
The trick is to scan your registration card, so they get an automatic upload of your contact information. I really felt like none of the vendors wanted to talk about the products - they just wanted to scan the card. Every other booth was raffling off an iPad 2 if they could scan your card. It was a bit of a joke.
The General Sessions were great. Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington (who gave a shout out to Patch.com), Tony Hseih and Michael J. Fox. I was interested to see how many people bailed out of the session to get into the lines for speaker book signings. Other interesting sightings:
- An attendee wearing fishnet stockings and gladiator sandals. (Joy actually saw a bare midriff.)
- The Starbucks line was never less than two dozen people long.
- Outside the Keith Urban concert (we skipped it): Guy is wearing a t-shirt and shorts. Girl is dressed to the nines.
- Star Wars Droid Hunt slot machine (no, I didn't play it).