Michigan SHRM State Conference – Rants and Raves

It’s been a while since I have done a rants and raves blog about a conference I’ve attended (this was the first), even though there have been several conferences I’ve been at that I could have ranted blogged about.

I can’t overlook the recent Michigan conference, held last week in Novi, MI, though. I have previously avoided attending the Michigan conference because I have felt that my personal professional development dollars were spent in better venues. But this year my home SHRM chapter, Detroit SHRM, was the conference sponsor, so I felt a little more obligated to be there. Plus, it was held about a 3 minute drive from my Michigan house (still unsold!) so travel arrangements were cheap and easy. Cheap and easy is a huge motivator sometimes. I was also able to volunteer during the conference, which always makes me feel more productive. So here are my thoughts about MISHRM12:


No social media presence – At least not much of one. To be fair, the organizers did create a blog site this year, but it contained nothing much but presenter or exhibitor advertisements for their session or booth. There was no useful content or information on the blog at all. There was no Facebook page at all. There were a few brave souls on Twitter (I was one of them). Here’s what one person sarcastically said about the MISHRM Twitter presence:

No, there weren’t even baby steps – more like a comatose baby in a crib. It makes me wonder if anyone from MISHRM even attends and understands their own sessions, since the always-wonderful Curtis Midkiff, Director of Social Engagement for SHRM (the national organization) gave a compelling session on why social media is important. Sad.

Sponsored sessions – MISHRM sold sponsorships of each learning session, so someone from the sponsor introduced each session speaker. BUT – not until after giving a little commercial for their company and why it was wonderful. I hated this with a passion. I didn’t think it was appropriate for people to be forced to listen to a sales pitch before they got what they paid and came for – learning. I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

Nice theme, but poor execution – The theme of the conference was “The Difference is U”. It was all supposed to be about learning and college/university. A lot could have been done with the theme – encouraging everyone to wear their college logos or colors during the conference, cheerleaders with pom pons announcing things, and presenters and vendors getting into the act. It would have made the conference FUN. But attendees, presenters, and exhibitors still wore their business clothes, with the exception of a “Tailgate Party” at the end of the Thursday session day. Unfortunately, most people left the conference hall right after sessions ended – it was clearly a commuting group of locals who wanted to hightail it home. Allowing people to have more fun during the session day would have held a lot more of them there for evening festivities. Ask Steve Browne the marketing value of letting your theme set your tone, who started his 2011 “HR Rocks” conference in Ohio dressed as a rock star and lip syncing a rock song. People still talk about that conference.


Location – In a recent #SHRMChat about conferences, location and facilities was considered to be highly important when planning a conference. I loved this facility because the session rooms were fairly close together, the exhibitor hall was large and spacious with a lot of room to sit, and it was conveniently located right off an expressway. There was no attached hotel, but since I wasn’t staying at a hotel anyway it didn’t bother me a bit, and kept the walking to a minimum. The official hotel was only a few minutes away, and shuttle service was offered.

Location – There was WiFi capability, which put it ahead of many conferences I have attended, and was also rated as hugely important during the previously mentioned SHRMChat. I’m not sure many people were using it (see Rant #1), but it was there. Kudos. By the way, there was also a mobile conference app – which has nothing to do with location but shows that the organizers CAN be up-to-date if they want to be.

Location – Lots of available parking and food service was . . . serviceable. The biggest complaint from attendees was that there were no soft drinks, even during scheduled meals. Being a local, neighborhood girl, I was able to go out for meals and get back in plenty of time. That’s a rave in my book. 😉



6 thoughts on “Michigan SHRM State Conference – Rants and Raves”

  1. My observations as participant and volunteer also…
    an email was send out encouraging participants to wear their college gear but it was a long email with a lot of conference info…some may have missed it. I thought a fair amount of vendors embraced the theme.
    There was soda at lunch, I had one!
    I didn’t mind the presenters/sales pitches, but the ones I heard were pretty quick.
    Rants: seating was cramped during presentations; confusion on Thursday regarding start time; boxed lunch noted for Friday but not provided.
    Raves: loved the student union!! Vendor halls are usually crowded, stuffy rooms, but this was spacious and relaxed. The ability to walk around during meals encouraged more interaction with others. I felt like I was able to meet and talk to a lot of people. I also really liked the venue, and appreciated not having to hike miles between rooms. I really enjoyed the key note speakers!

  2. Liza – thanks for commenting – it’s always good to have another perspective.

    1. I understood the college gear to be ONLY for the tailgate party. I was told to wear my business clothes on Wednesday as a room ambassador (you too?) so what does that tell you about attention to theme?

    2. I was asked by at least 4 different people where they could get a soft drink because there was none available at the meals, only water.

    3. I think you should start your own blog, because the HR space is Michigan – particularly Detroit – is under-represented.

  3. Well, I for one am with Tim Sackett (whom I respect as an online contributor and hope to hear at a future MISHRM conference). Whether his comment was intended to be sarcastic or not, it really is all about baby steps. 8 people tweeting IS more than 7. Also, I recall reading that typically 1% of conference attendees (HR-focused or not) are actively engaged in the Twitterverse throughout their time there. At 800 attendees, we are right on target with 8! Of course, the goal is to be as involved as possible, but given the level of exposure to social media, and the demographics of our profession and attendees, the improvement is still a notable one. I know that this will continue to improve with the rest of the changes happening within the organization. While I was busy volunteering and so missed Curtis’ presentation (drat!), I have heard nothing but positive responses on his session. Thanks to him for being there! Much like it is in the rest of our lives when doctors say “ you need to eat healthier” and mechanics report “you should invest in some new tires”, we often need to hear the message multiple times before it actually takes root and we’re incited to action. Most people come around and change their behavior before the metaphorical heart attack or car accident occurs. Those of us who are informed must simply continue to spread the message.

    Other comments here are good ones, and I hope they are shared in a formal manner with both the 2012 and 2013 MISHRM Conference Committees. (You too, Liza!) I agree that there might be a better way to acknowledge our exhibitors/sponsors/partners, and also that the theme could have been taken even further. The best way to get change to happen is to identify problems, then come with solutions. And if those aren’t communicated, things stay status quo. Everyone who puts on this conference is a volunteer with a full-time job, and “life” to boot. It takes a village, and anyone who wants to be involved and has insight into making it better would be more than welcome to step in! As a Detroit SHRM chapter volunteer, you get that.

    Appreciate the raves – facility, WiFi, conference app, parking, food. As you know, sometimes it’s the little things that can kill a conference!

    All in all, I just want to make sure we don’t negate the entire effort. Perhaps not in your circle, but people I know (and some I don’t) are indeed still talking about the professional execution, high caliber of educational topics and speakers, and overall great time they had. Hopefully next year will be even better – but we’ll leave that to the West Side of the State. In the meantime, let’s celebrate our successes!

    Again, baby steps…

    Thanks for your time a as a Detroit Volunteer, Joan.

  4. Thanks for reading and commenting, Dana. Any good blogger welcomes public discourse and dissent, because that facilitates the public learning – always the main goal.

    I actually addressed the baby steps issue in my latest blog, because I disagree with the notion that HR associations can or should accept baby steps as sufficient progress. Besides the points I mentioned in my blog, one Twitter comment has already claimed that this idea that baby steps is progress just makes HR look even more archaic to business leadership.

    As for “negating” the entire effort – MISHRM could have made any negativity in the blog totally moot if they had embraced social media at the outset and had their own team of positive bloggers/tweeters in place (as HRFL and ILSHRM do at their conferences, and as I suggested early on). I don’t think it’s fair for MISHRM to refuse to take any steps to ensure positive press, and them complain when they don’t get it (or get enough of it).

    Reading and learning from the points brought up here – or in any other blog – it also MISHRM’s responsibility. If MISHRM doesn’t have a system in place to read every single thing written about it on the web, that is their own failing, not the writer’s.

  5. The idea of faster change, in business and especially in the realm of HR, is indeed an intriguing and popular one. It relates directly to the topic of the September Detroit SHRM chapter event Michael Arena presented on the notion of “pivoting” and organizational culture and the speed of change. Much like we are in our businesses (how we have to be), as an association, we are indeed learning to be more nimble in our operations. Change or die, right?

    Perhaps MISHRM did miss an opportunity to create more positive press, but I’m still a believer that something is better than nothing. SoMe use examples such as Florida and Illinois are fantastic (I’ve heard you rave about them for a whle now), so I do hope their tactics are employed in a more meaningful way in the future at our state conferences, and locally.

Comments are closed.