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Navigating the SHRM Conference: A First-Timer's Survival Guide

We asked three HR experts for their tips to ensure you get the most out of your SHRM conference experience.

Nick Schurk

by Nick Schurk - June 5th, 2023


HR leaders know that the SHRM Conference is a can't-miss event. However, with such a jam-packed schedule, it can feel overwhelming at times. To help ensure you get the most out of your experience and avoid burnout while attending, we asked three HR experts what their secrets were for surviving the conference, and they shared some fantastic advice. 

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From the significance of networking to the importance of planning and engaging with experts, our trusty HR professionals provide essential insights for surviving and thriving at the conference. Their collective wisdom is summarized in three essential tips that can serve as a practical survival guide for first-time attendees.

1. Embrace Networking Opportunities

As Gordana Sretenovic, Co-founder of Workello, emphasizes, the real value of HR conferences often goes beyond the sessions themselves. Although the speakers provide invaluable knowledge, the connections you make often leave a lasting impact. Networking events present unique opportunities to meet peers, potential mentors, and other industry players.

"Approach anyone you find interesting and strike up a conversation -- you never know what you'll get to learn!" says Sretenovic. So, whether you're a social butterfly or a networking newbie, let go of any inhibitions and embrace the opportunity to connect.

2. Prepare and Immerse in Experience

While the sheer magnitude of the conference can be overwhelming, Patty Hickok, Sr. Director of Employee Relations, HRIS, and HR Operations at NANA Regional Corporation, emphasizes the importance of preparation.

"Read conference emails, download the conference app, and plan your agenda in advance - all on your phone!" Hickok advises. Pack comfortable shoes, be familiar with transportation logistics, and once you arrive, be prepared for a life-changing experience. The conference offers an immersive look at the latest HR topics, presented by top-notch speakers. From earning recertification credits to exploring exhibitor offerings, there are many learning avenues to explore.

3. Plan and Engage with Experts

As Bikas Mukherjee, Partner, and Advisor in Global Operations at Naman Integrated Management Services Pvt. Ltd., advises, planning is crucial. From identifying relevant sessions to setting a flexible schedule, a well-planned approach can help you make the most out of the conference.

"Participate in Q&A and informal conversations with fellow experts following sessions," encourages Mukherjee. Social events and the exhibition area are excellent spaces to network and discover emerging trends. Post-conference, revisiting notes, and following up with new contacts can further consolidate the experience.

While the prospect of attending a large-scale event like the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo can be overwhelming, with these expert tips, you'll be well-equipped to make the most out of it. Ultimately, remember to stay relaxed, absorb as much as possible, and, most importantly, enjoy the experience. After all, conferences are not just about learning and networking - they're also about having fun!

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