Several years ago, I attended an ASHHRA conference in Orlando, FL. ASHHRA is a healthcare specific human resource association (American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration). I had actually been anxious about going to Florida, not sure why, just an unknown dread that lurked; I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I soon found out why when we exited the airport and were hit with 98% humidity and bugs the size of my fist.  I was glad we were going to be staying at the hotel where the conference was to be held, there would be no confrontations with horrendous humidity as we went back and forth from hotel to conference.  And there would be no sightseeing, straight work.  Exhibiting and networking.


Working in recruiting had been a dream come true for me. I love the industry, I love the people, and I love the job, itself.  And working in healthcare was a perfect fit for me.  I was eager to do well, and constantly concerned about the “sales” side of the job.  I didn’t want to be thought of as slick, insincere, or uncaring.  I, literally, needed my clients and candidates to know of my earnestness and my desire to help, not just seek a paycheck.  Manning a booth gave me that opportunity, pre-social media, to meet potential clients and give them the straight in the eye shot, trust-building handshakes and invitations to dinner or future conversations. 


Sadly, Florida in July – when kids are out of school – is a bad place and time to host a conference.  Disneyworld was close by and many attendees brought family members along; time spent cruising the exhibit hall was far less preferable than time spent at the happiest place on earth.  And sadly, the lack of attention to the Exhibit Hall proved lack of forethought and insight into the HR mind.  When selecting conferences to attend or at which to exhibit, the success of this type of networking definitely depends upon the place and time; not so much how big your booth is or how many pre-conference marketing  mailers were sent.


Today, I sit in a hotel room in downtown Las Vegas, preparing to attend the SHRM 2011 Conference.  It is about a thousand degrees outside, the Convention Center is off the Strip and I wonder about attendance.  Will attendees be sidetracked by bright lights, boozing, and gambling?  Will relationships be established and cemented despite the clanging bells of slot machines and lure of an open craps table? Will social media still be the most talked about aspect of or tool for HR and Recruiting?  What will be the newest hot topic?  Still mobile, location, or the ever popular authenticity?


Conferences still work for this industry, because the industry is still, ultimately, managed by real live people.  While we can automate almost every aspect of our jobs, final decisions must still be made by a human mind.  Some might site this as a good thing; I am happy to be part of that “some”.


by rayannethorn

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I wish some of the conference organizers would recognize that not everyone wants to attend a conference in Sin City.


I'm a family man.  I don't find anything "business-y" at all about Vegas. 


I guess it's just an excuse for HR execs to go to Vegas in my opinion.  "Sorry honey - I've got to go to Las Vegas for a conference.  I'll be back in a few days........." isn't quite what I'm all about.

Yes conferences do hold some value for networking, and the absolute face to face. Some challenges come from folks who network to really get to know folks and others who just go for business connections. This is so sad in an industry that is all about connecting people to people that we can't just have a conversation with someone because we want to talk to them rather than the "what is in it for me" mentality.

I am glad we still do conferences in this world of everything being online and I agree that the locations do leave something to be desired. Large conference facilities are difficult to build, fund and maintain and the hospitality industry leaves a lot to be desired in the way of generating revenue.

Enjoy Las Vegas Rayanne and say hi to all for me!

Having spent years of my career in the entertainment, events (includes convention) production industry, PLUS recruiting In Vegas for Production Executives, It's actually a great buy in terms of dollars for a large group. Room/F&B/ much lower prices. Plus, convention facilities (including hotels) are awesome.


Nothing (IMO) is better than face to face. Vegas is a great gathering place to connect~


A conference in Vegas was common back when travel budgets were big and serious partying was expected.  That stigma is hard to overlook.


I'm surprised in these austere times that many would feel comfortable going there much less justifying a serious party town to management for a working conference. 


Yes--no adult supervision is required for the adults in the group, but twitter notes are raving about "getting a picture with this celeb" and "couldn't get into that rave"...and not so much about the conference.


While I'm sure the benefits are also there and most will enjoy and value the experience there--THERE is the problem.

I think having a conference in Vegas is a huge draw (or admittedly for some, a deterrent). I don't go to many conferences, but I can be swayed, depending on the location. I'm on my way to a conference today actually (non-recruiting related, this one is for a national writers group), and a key reason I'm attending this year is because it's in New York City, which is just a few hours away from Boston and there's loads to do there. I skipped last year, but went the year before that because it was in San Francisco and I'd always wanted to visit that part of the country (and take a detour through Sonoma and Napa of course).


I really wanted to go to Fordyce this year, and a big part of that was because it was in Vegas. I love Vegas, it has the feel of an Adult's Disney World. Even if you don't gamble (and I admit, I love playing a little black jack), there's still plenty of sightseeing and it's fun to play tourist there. It's also an inexpensive trip as rooms are very reasonable (because they want you spending money in the casinos) and there's loads of great food options. Last time I went there, I actually tagged along with a friend who was going to a business conference and we had a ball, and saw the amazing Siegfriend and Roy white tiger show (about a month or so before one of the tigers attacked and the show shut down).There's something for everyone in Vegas, which is why I think it's so appealing for conferences.

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