Vetting Social Media Speakers

The Klout "fail" puppy is cuter than a fail whale.

If the term “human resources” is in your name, like Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), it would be reasonable to expect that you know something about choosing qualified candidates for a job function. Right?

So if SHRM – or a SHRM-affiliate – is looking for a conference speaker to discuss Twitter and how it relates to employment law, it would also be reasonable to expect that the speaker is knowledgeable about, well . . . Twitter and employment law.

Am I missing something here?

I ask because SHRM, the national organization, and some SHRM affiliates, don’t seem to agree with me. They have an unusual habit of presenting employment lawyers to talk about the crossroads of law and social media, but who know nothing, or close to nothing, about social media.

I am not making this up.

I first came into personal contact with this questionable practice in March 2010, at the SHRM Legal-Legislative Conference. Better writers than I blogged about it. Since then, I have encountered the practice several times, most recently at the massive SHRM annual conference in Las Vegas. Check here and here for rants about that session. Sadly, my own state will be adding to this travesty this October, when they present a session on “Twitter and Terminations”, led by an employment lawyer who is not on Twitter, and whose entire social media presence consists of a LinkedIn profile.

This practice truly short-changes attendees. Attendees have every right to expect that a human resources organization has properly vetted their speakers and trainers, and that those people have a certain amount of expertise in the totality of their topic. This is especially true since it is so easy to search people using Google to see if they have any kind of social presence at all.

If SHRM and other organizations want to really delve into their evaluation of a speaker’s social media involvement, they can also use rating sites like Klout or PeerIndex to see how involved a speaking candidate is on social media. I am not advocating that a potential speaker has a particular rating or number, but they should at least have one.

Is that really too much to ask?

My Klout score has dropped lately, but I least I have a score!
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10 thoughts on “Vetting Social Media Speakers”

  1. Great use of Klout. We all agree I think, if you say social media is in your tool box, you’d better be able to show you are using social media. Thanks Joan.

  2. If you are going to provide social media programming, your selection committee needs to be very familiar with the subject and must be able to recognize all aspects that need to be presented. ILSHRM learned it the hard way last year that not all the folks who proclaim to be knowledgeable on social media aren’t. We are very fortunate to have several members who are and are able to recognize the good speakers from the not so good.

    I do believe that lawyers need to be heard on the subject as there is some risk involved but they need to be familiar with it rather than just naysayers.

  3. There are tons of lawyers who do both well, and they are really the best sources. I agree they need to be at these conferences.

    If the selection committee isn’t well versed enough in social media to make a decision – shame on them. If someone asked me to choose a speaker about wellness, I would defer. Or maybe pick up the phone and call my daughter who is versed. As an HR practitioner, I don’t just say “good enough.”

  4. I wholeheartedly agree that speakers, especially at significant conferences, should be familiar with their subject matter. There’s no point in having someone discuss social media, in the context of HR and employment law, if they have no real knowledge of social media.

  5. Ha! Joan, I just noticed that the Houston HR Association’s August meeting is about social media for HR. The conversation is being led by a lawyer and a guy who has a job search coaching company. He’s on LinkedIn, but that’s it. Apparently belonging to a speaker’s bureau is more important than actual expertise.

  6. Since you are an employment lawyer, Stuart, I really appreciate that you agree with this premise. Many are of the mind that they don’t have to be a truck driver to speak about vehicle tort laws. BUT – most at least know how to drive a vehicle and operate on the road. If they had no experience at all about vehicle use and traffic, I’d say they weren’t qualified, either.

    Detroit isn’t far from Toronto, Stuart. Are you perhaps interested in speaking at the MISHRM 2012?

  7. And what does that say about the HR profession and the people who are active in these chapters, Fran? It says they don’t know what they’re doing, which is doubly sad. At least they don’t know how to “hire”.

  8. Great article Joan – and I agree. If someone is speaking on social media at a conference and they don’t have a presence on any social media sites, it’s difficult to take them seriously. I also agree that it short-changes attendees. There’s nothing more frustrating than attending a session and hoping for one thing, but then receiving another.

    Ps: The Klout fail puppy is much cuter than the Twitter fail whale :)

  9. Thanks for your comment, Lindsay! I think that it particularly short-changes attendees because HR attendees in particular have a reasonable expectation that the conference organizers know how to choose candidates.

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