With a conference the size and scope of the SHRM Annual Conference, it’s important to have the right mindset and approach.
In a few short weeks, over 15,000 HR professional will gather in New Orleans to learn from the best in the business. It can be overwhelming to take on an event like this, and although there is no shortage of tips and tricks available online, having the right approach can make all the difference.
Here is how project management fundamentals can help:
At this point, you should have clarity on the “why” behind your plans to attend the SHRM Annual Conference. If however, you’re not quite clear on what exactly would make the conference successful for you and anyone who has a stake in your attendance, it’s time to get to work.
- Who wants or needs to have input in terms of your plans? Who should you talk to, to gain clarity about goals and expectations?
- How would these people define success in terms of your conference attendance? What objectives or deliverables are they looking for?
- How would they measure success? How would you know you met their expectations?
Planning goes beyond securing registration, hotel and travel (although those details matter). Planning means developing an overarching strategy for your time in New Orleans, to include which sessions and events will present the greatest opportunity for you to be successful (see initiate above).
- Clarify who, what, when and where, for every critical aspect of your trip and the conference itself. Plan your sessions, plan your travel to and from every event, plan your time away from work, etc.
- Manage risk by considering the things that might go off track. Using your experience, and the tips and tricks provided by people who have been before, consider all the little “what ifs” that might make your conference experience less enjoyable and in terms of your goals, less effective.
- Put everything together in some kind of a plan. Use a checklist, handwritten notes, email folders, or whatever works for you. The key here is to put everything together in a system where you can access the critical details when you need them.
Once you have a clear “why” and a solid plan in place, it’s time to execute. This phase will most likely encompass the follow through on everything you set in place in Initiate and Plan. This can range from the obvious (catching you flight as scheduled), to resisting temptation (avoiding deviation from the plan).
You worked to clarify purpose and create a plan for a reason.
The point here is to put an active effort into follow through!
Monitor and Control
That said, things can and will change. Adapting to change, and getting back on track is what this phase is all about.
You may discover that the sessions you planned to attend do not meet your needs, or that you’re having difficulty making the 7 AM early bird sessions as you intended, that traffic is worse than expected, and so on.
The key here is to pause, and think through adjustments to your Plan.
Incorporating the realities of a fast moving, massive, fluid conference is critical to achieving the goals you set out to achieve.
When the conference is over, and you’ve had a moment to catch your breath, it’s important to do a quick review of your experience. Assess your time at the conference with a focus on the work that went into following through on your plan and accomplishing your goals.
- What worked? What didn’t?
- What will you do differently next time?
- Did you do everything you set out to do originally? If no, is there still a way to do so?
- Who needs to know about our work or accomplishments at the conference?
A solid Close phase provides the foundation for initiating and planning your next conference. It shows that you are committed to continuous improvement, and that you are willing to work hard at improving your professional skills while advancing the goals of your organization.
Perhaps most importantly, it shows that you are committed to doing this all over again next year.
See you there.