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:

RANTS

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.

RAVES

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. 😉