Last week I went to a conference called the Institute for Continuing Legal Education‘s 35th Annual Labor and Employment Law Institute. Given that exasperatingly long name, I don’t think I have to tell you any more about what material the conference covered. Hundreds of Michigan attorneys and HR pros descend on this conference every year to receive updates, information, and training related to employment and labor law developments.
Even though I have attended this conference several times in the past, this year I paid attention to something totally new. Something that I either ignored, or, even worse, scoffed at during previous conferences. This year I paid special attention to THE SPONSORS.
In conferences past, I paid no mind to sponsors. I always thought that sponsors were money-hungry vultures, looking to make a buck from a captive audience that probably didn’t have a choice about whether or not they really wanted to hear the sponsor’s name or message. Look the other way and walk by fast – that was my motto.
I had a change of heart this year. Several months ago I was asked to be a part of the planning committee for HRevolution, an unconference of cutting edge, forward-thinking HR topics. I had been an attendee at the very first HRevolution last November, and I was thoroughly delighted by the experience. I was humbled when asked to participate, and more than happy to help.
During these past few months of planning, I learned something very critical – a conference, or even an unconference, costs a lot of money. There is the facility cost, food costs, programming, signage, badges, perks or prizes (swag), and lots of little things that attendees have come to expect and that good planners want to provide. The downside is that you can’t charge the full cost to the attendee, or they never would be able to afford to participate. What can be done? Ask a sponsor for donations to help defray your costs.
This is why I paid special attention to the sponsors at my employment law seminar last week- they gave money so that I could learn something new. And this is why I am profusely thanking and loving the HRevolution sponsors. They are giving money or items or food so that the attendees can gain knowledge and professional development. They certainly hope for more business, but are not assured in any way of receiving it. They are believers in the message and goals of HRevolution, and they are opening their hearts and pocket books to prove it.
Sponsors, I have learned, are the angels of the conference world. The sponsors of HRevolution, shown below, are special angels. If I ever need the kind of service they provide, I’m calling them first, because I already know they “get it.” Join me if you can.