Recruitfest: Track Leader Report

(Sep 26, 2008) I had a really good time at Recruitfest. The idea that a professional conference can be fun was a real eye opener. Maybe we should start to expect that networking is a success when it produces really big smiles.

The design of Recruitfest was pretty interesting. Each of four track leaders held court in a breakout room for much of the day. Same general topic, three different sessions. That way, participants had the chance to interact with three of the four.

Jason asked me to cover "the importance of having a big picture". Over the years, my work has tended to cover the industry from a high level perspective. Jason's notion was that my sessions should be about why that's important.

One of the reasons that Jason manages community so well is that he doesn't get too specific. Once he's laid out an assignment, he stands back and watches the output. It's the difference between leadership and management. JD leads.

You can't get where you're going unless you know where your going.

That's why having a big picture is important. Our industry (and much of our work) is fragmented and reactive. It's really hard to see the big trends. It's extremely challenging to keep track of where you are and where you are going. Having a big picture is all about navigating.

When Recruitfesters entered the room, the flip chart said "Big Pictures". In my preparation, it became clearer than ever that everyone has their own big picture. There's not realy anything like a "right answer".

So the conversations became about "How do you remember where you are?" or "How do you rediscover your big picture?" or "How do you refresh yourself?".

I've been giving stand up presentations my whole life. I've done thousands of them. Being in front of a room delivering information is a comfortable place. So. I decided to sit down and make the sessions into conversations. The idea was to test out a different style of communication.

With a little bit of introduction, each session had more to do with the participants than the way I set the topic. There was a fascinating ebb and flow as each participant shared a story about their approach. Quickly, we all learned that an approach that creats the big picture for one is the same thing that causes another to lose it.

I'd never considered the fact that "one person's meat is another person's poison" applies to having a big picture.

In the end, I was surprised about how much I learned from the track I ran at Recruitfest. Really surprised. That's the spirit of this thing here on If you'll experiment with a cherished belief or two, the results will astonish you (as they do for me).

John Sumser has been chronicling the Recruiting Industry forever. You can catch his work at He's the CEO of the Recruiting Roadshow. Join the fun in Silicon Valley (10/23) or Atlanta in early December

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