Thursday, June 6, 2013

Navigating Swagville

The 2013 SHRM annual conference is upon us and I am excited to be a member of the SHRM Social Media Team. If you are attending come see me at The Hive ( located in the South Building of McCormick Place in HALL A right next to the SHRMStore). I will be conducting interviews, giving social media tutorials and signing autographs during the following times:
Monday, June 17th from 2pm - 4pm
Tuesday, June 18th from 2pm - 4pm
Wednesday, June 19th from 10am - 12pm

Come see me!

I have spent the prior 6 SHRM annual conferences as part of an exhibitor booth team. Over the years our team devised a strategy to enhance the experience for exhibitors and attendees. Here is my recommendation for navigating the Exposition Hall.

For Attendees:
1. Do your pre-work. The best way to avoid being spammed by a thousand annoying sales people is to pick your battles. Know which vendors are a value-add to your organization's HR Strategy and seek them out. It is far more beneficial to spend 20 minutes discussing your issues with a desired partner than to dart from booth to booth asking each vendor's purpose for being there.

2. Do not suffer swag remorse. Many HR pros will return from Chicago with 2 extra carry-on bags full of logo-ed stuffed animals for their nephews and nieces. Forgive my candor but that is a terrible idea! We are in a day-and-age when HR is driving several critical elements of organizational strategy. The SHRM annual conference showcases the best vendors in the industry. Don't miss an opportunity to become an informed buyer because you are busy collecting swag in exchange for a year's worth of spam emails!

3. Humanize your RFP process. The process of finding a strategic partner to fulfill an unmet organizational need can last for months (and sometimes years). At the SHRM annual conference you have the opportunity to have qualifying conversations with every vendor in every service line. Maximize the experience and come back to your organization with your mind full of strategic reference points (instead of a bag full of swag)!

4. Ask tough questions. Be real about what you want; the essential delivery elements a vendor's product must engage.

Here is a list of those Exhibiting at the 2013 annual conference.

1. Know the product or service that fulfills an unmet organizational need.
2. Locate all the vendors in that space.
3. Visit their booths throughout the conference 
(plan to have just one or two meaningful conversations per Exhibitor Hall visit)
4. Ask the tough questions. 
5. If a booth staff member skirts around your question - cross them off your list.
6. Leave Chicago with a new partnership in place!

For Exhibitors:

1. Have a Strategy. You know your target audience, seek them out. Time is of the essence in the exhibitor hall and there will be a hundred people at your booth at any given time. Qualify your conversations. Don't waste an entire session speaking to a lonely attendee that has no interest in buying your product or service. Reserve time for your target audience and have meaningful conversations.

2. Here's how it works
a. Have a group in front of your booth.
b. Look at the attendees badge and ask a few questions.
c. If they do not fit your target audience, send them on their way.
(they will not be offended)
d. If they are of a targeted clientele - take them into your booth and introduce them to a subject matter expert.

3. Don't bullshit attendees. If you don't know the answer to a question introduce the attendee to someone who does.

4. Don't be annoying! 
a. If I am walking through the middle of the hall don't dart across the hall to scan my badge. 
b. Don't yell at me. 
c. Don't ask stupid questions.
d. Initiate a conversation based on your ability to solve the attendees business issue.
e. If people are uninterested, leave them alone.
f. Don't get offended when people ignore you.
g. Qualify, qualify, qualify

5. Quality is better than Quantity! You should plan to close people on-site. Don't just collect names of non-decision makers for the sake of lead stats.

6. Buy yourself a beer! I know working a booth is extremely difficult. At the end of the day you deserve to celebrate the fruits of your labor!

Companies spend a lot of money to exhibit at SHRM. Raising brand awareness is awesome, but having conversations that produce qualified leads is even better! Attendees have limited time in the Exhibitor Hall, don't waste your time chasing stuffed ducks!

See you all in Chicago!

Don't Forget to Remember!



  1. Rumor has it that the exhibitors know who is likely to be a future client when they draw their booth prize. If the attendee is not likely to bring added value to the vendor, his or her name is not likely to be picked for that iPad, GPS, or gift certificate.