Finishing up the HR Conference season for 2011 and I have a few things that have been bugging me…
I. Wireless Access – Let’s begin here (and I could probably end here as well!) – when do we jump the shark at HR conferences when wireless access is the “new” normal – SHRM National – the largest conference – no access in the sessions – HR Southwest – the second largest show – no access – how are we suppose to live tweet/Facebook/and Shop (just for boring sessions) when there is no wireless access. I get most have smart phones – but really – if you’re in a a good session you need a full keyboard to keep up with all the gems being shared. A few get it – HR Tech is one – which you would assume – it’s Tech! plus the Godfather of HR Bill Kutik get’s it. Some state conferences get it – mostly those being organized and run by HR Bloggers. But really the majority still don’t – Kris Dunn and I were at HR Southwest this week and they wanted the low, low price of $99.95 per day for wireless access – I kid you not!
II. Swag – Unlike my friend William Tincup who wants to abolish swag and just have “real ” conversations – like HR folks want those! – I think we need to up the swag game to monumental proportions. Go big or go home with your Swag, HR vendors. Let’s face it with the crappy economy old school wine and dine is back into fashion and I think too many vendors are missing the boat. Want to have a “real” conversation William? Offer something “real” to the HR Pro to sit down with you, besides your over hyped, over priced software that only does 13% of what you actually say it will do. The one’s I love are when some idiot sends you like a portable DVD player, but without the battery, and says “if you meet with me for 30 minutes I’ll bring in the battery and it’s all yours to keep.” Well that’s a start – but the portable DVD player you sent just really made me feel sorry for you, and that’s probably why I would meet with you! In 2012 I’m looking for a vendor to offer up Cash! That’s right – my time is money baby! Want to sit down and blow hot air up my butt – give me some money. Heck for $50 bucks, for 30 minutes, I’ll even sit close to you on your little stupid coach at the show and hold hands!
III. Conference Groupies – I don’t know about you guys – but I have a job – and my job isn’t going to conferences – but it seems like there is a core group of folks that somehow fell into these cool jobs of just going to conferences. Not sure who pays them to do this – but this is kind of their thing. I know most of these folks get free admission – but the travel is still super expensive. I wouldn’t even comment on this but for the simple fact, I don’t see these folks really doing anything besides showing up to the parties to get free drinks – oh and the obligatory blog post on how “this” conference is the best ever, followed by a handful of tweets saying how great whoever it was that gave them the free pass to come to the conference and some drunk flickr photos. BTW – if you are offended by the following paragraph – you are a conference groupie.
Just FYI – the price for wireless access is probably not set by the Conference. I know for fact that HR Southwest has to use the Convention Center vendor, no competition is allowed and they set the prices. HR Southwest doesn’t get any of that money, it goes to the service provider. (I have been a volunteer with HR Southwest so have an inside perspective, and know the vendor rates are ridiculous)
I expect most Convention Centers have similar arrangements. If the Conference wants to offer free wireless they would have to raise attendee rates, and since many have their own wireless cards I expect most would rather not have that added to their rates. I understand the desire for it, believe me – but I also know that Conferences have to balance cost and benefits to appeal to the greatest number.
On the swag, I agree if you want me to spend time offer some significant value – but also have to admit I haven’t spent money on pens or notepads in years – get all I need at my once/year visit to HR Southwest 🙂
Thanks for the blog – I enjoy reading it.
Number III…priceless…man, what is it with professional conference attendees and their insipid hashtagy-tweety thing?