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So you’ve registered for SHRM 2016 and booked your hotel. It may be too early to start packing — ok, it’s definitely too early to start packing — but it’s never too early to plan for the conference experience you really want. Without proper planning it’s easy to get swept along from talk to talk, booth to booth, missing out on the best networking and learning opportunities. Without proper packing it’s easy to tire yourself out or drain your batteries dry, stranding you in your hotel room while other HR pros are enjoying great dinners, great parties and meeting all the right people while having a good time.
Don’t let that happen to you! Don’t forget to:
Pack Chargers, Cables, Batteries
If you’re an experienced business traveller you already know this one, but I’m going to remind you anyway: you must pack all the chargers, cables and rechargeable batteries that your gadgets need. If you don’t, your conference experience will be pretty miserable. Imagine losing an hour or more out of the day, every day during SHRM, because you keep having to return to your room to charge your phone? Imagine having to pay convention centre prices for a spare lightning cable, or trekking all over an unfamiliar city looking for one that’s a bit cheaper?
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Pack Sensible Shoes
SHRM the largest annual gathering of HR professionals in the US. It’s understandable if you want to impress your colleagues with cute and/or gorgeous shoes. But do you want to have tired, sore, blistering and maybe even bloody feet inside those cute shoes? No, you do not. You also don’t want to pack your comfiest, scuffed up sneakers, no matter how heavenly your feet will feel even after a whole day on your feet. Dilemma! Split the difference between cute and comfy with smartly polished loafers or ballet flats with built-in support or insoles.
… and Sensible Clothes
This year the SHRM conference is being held in DC. June in DC can be a little complicated: rainy, sunny, humid, hot and cold. So check the forecast carefully before packing your bag and anticipate having to layer. You don’t want to be sweaty, frozen or just plain uncomfortable and you don’t want to dress it too down or too up. So avoid full suits and opt for summer weight cardigans, crisp light weight slacks, khakis or skirts and nice — and again light weight — shirts. And most importantly, remember to pack at least two outfits you can wear out at night!
And an umbrella.
Take Time Out For You
Introverts have been such a hot topic in the last few years that by now we all know — I mean, I hope we all know — that taking time out for yourself isn’t a bad thing. Even if you’re the most extroverted HR lady at SHRM 2016, you should still take some time out of your day that’s just for you. What that consists of depends on you. Maybe it’s a lazy breakfast in your hotel room. Maybe it’s regular coffee breaks throughout the day where you decompress and update your Pinterest boards. Maybe it’s sneaking out of SHRM to take in the sights — here’s what’s going down in DC this June.
Or maybe, and this is something I highly recommend, it’s taking a bit of time out from the conference to check out the city around you. This year SHRM is being held at Walter E. Washington Convention Centre, and while that’s not the hottest part of the city, it’s awfully close to DC’s Chinatown. Check out one of the nearby Jose Andres (the food consulted from NBC’s Hannibal) restaurants, like Jaleo or Zatinya, or the locally loved Matchbox‘s woodoven pizza.
Meet New People
Introvert or extrovert, it can be tempting to spend conferences catching up with colleagues and old friends. But professional development doesn’t just mean learning about all the latest HR tech (and collecting all the sweet free swag), it also means expanding your network. One of the most important things you can do for yourself at SHRM this year is putting yourself out there to meet new people. Don’t assume you already know all the cool kids — get out there and meet the hungry young HR and HR tech pros!
I know networking can be stressful, even in a relaxed environment, but if meeting new people is a bit of a phobia for you, you can overcome this fear but setting small goals. Make a resolution to introduce yourself to one HR pro you admire this year. Have your friends introduce you to a couple of their friends each day of the conference. Or take the time to really talk to vendors and speakers about their new projects. By the time SHRM 2016 is over you’ll have made valuable new contacts.
Take Your Badge Off at Night
This one is obvious. I hope. I wish. But don’t go to parties wearing a name tag. Don’t go to dinner wearing a name tag. Don’t leave the convention centre wearing a name tag. Don’t go on public transit wearing a name tag. Don’t do it. Stop.
Wearing your badge at night tells others two things: 1) you’re all business, no play; 2) you want everyone to know your name. Once the conference has wrapped for the day, it’s time to put away your name badge, change your outfit and, well, socialize. Of course all the parties and dinners associated with big professional conferences are also networking opportunities, but they call for a different kind of networking, one where you don’t tell everyone up front about your new product, project or theory, and instead relax a bit together. Don’t be a buzz killing Inigo Montoya.
Take off your badge and have a good time!
And if you’re staying home this year and feeling left out of the fun, check out Kelly Poulson’s recommendations on pushing your career ahead even when you can’t afford to attend SHRM and other conferences!