We Should Be HERE

Why you Should Attend the SXSW as a HR Professional

I just got back from the largest interactive media and technology conference, South by Southwest or SXSW for short.  It was amazing.  The conference was more than nerd heaven.  It was full of cutting edge technology and start ups and entrepreneurs who are blazing the trails and setting the bar.

We Should Be HERE

I met some wonderful people and didn’t feel obligated  justifying to those around me about checking in with geolocation tools like Four Square and Gowalla.  My fellow conference attendees felt the same.  We talked technology, chatted about twitter apps, and discussed advanced new media strategies for business.  I was in heaven.

What did bother me was the lack of HR presence at this conference.  Aside from about a dozen recruiters who specialize or work only in the recruiting and staffing industry, I was one of two Human Resource professionals there.  I spent a lot of time defending our profession, the industry, and the fact that there are successful HR bloggers and new media addicts who work in the human resource industry doing great things.

They didn’t believe me.

We, the HR and recruitment social media community are strong.  I have made life long friendships with people like Trish McFarlane, Steve Boese, Jennifer Miller, Geoff Webb, Bryan Wempen and so many others over the last year.  We are thought leaders in the industry who are bringing the HR profession and professional organizations like SHRM often times kicking and screaming into the new media and digital age.  That’s the exact reason why events like HR Evolution, TRU Conferences, and RecruitFest were created.

A couple things. . .

  • Not only should we be here, but we should be united.  Professional organizations like the Social Media Club and Digital Media Organizations hosted cocktail and breakfast events during the conference.  SHRM should be doing this especially if we are serious about being business partners vs. purely operational.
  • Professional organizations like ASTD, SHRM, and Recruiting Blogs should have booths at the interactive trade show.  It’s about building partnerships and relationships with our digital business leaders.
  • We should be attending events like theses outside of our own industry or specialty.  In 2010, I have said that I will not be attending HR specific events unless I am asked to be a speaker.  I will, however be attending events outside of my industry like SXSW and Alternative Energy conferences where Human Resources typically do not have a presence.  This is part of my differentiation and education strategy as a HR person and consultant.  I go where the decision makers go.

Tell me your thoughts, suggestions, and opinions.  What should we do to push the HR industry forward?  Are attending events like SXSW the answer?

Read more about HR and Recruiting’s role at conferences like SXSW.  

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

Reader Interactions


  1. Steve Boese says

    Some great points here about getting out of the traditional boxes and events and seeing more of what is happening in business and industry. I think you are right that these experiences can only serve to benefit individuals, and the profession overall. I hope you had a great time and learned a lot at the SXSW event, I hope to attend someday.

  2. blogging4jobs says

    @Steve, I’m pretty passionate about this and am already scheming to bring the HR new media presence there in full force. If you or anyone is interested, give me a shout. I’d love to have you.

  3. Kim Hollenshead says

    I was one of those other HR / Recruiter hybrids attending SXSW ’10 and it was the third year in a row for me. I’ve made it a point to be where cutting edge technology is and love it. I find that it benefits me in my day-to-day job and like you said totally differentiates me. I can talk what really matters to business with authority and they listen. I’m amazed that it’s taking other HR professionals so long to catch up!

  4. Trish McFarlane says

    Jessica, I enjoyed following your SXSW tweets and posts. I agree that HR needs a bigger presence and we can certainly get a group together with a plan to begin sharing this message. One point I will make is that in these rough economic times, it is hard to even get approval from companies to attend HR conferences let alone non-HR specific conferences. We’ll need some strategies around that so that HR pros have the tools they need to convince their employers why it makes sense for them to be at SXSW and similar events around social media and technology.

    Let’s get it started…. “SXSW11: Team HR”

  5. blogging4jobs says

    @Mark, Awesome! Thanks for the RT and support. I’m excited to take things to the next level.

    @Trish, Understand, however the SXSW Interactive conference was $550 (walk up cost) which is a third of what the cost of the National SHRM & ERE 2 day conferences are. SXSW Interactive was almost an entire week. Let’s talk soon!

  6. Mid247 says

    Totally agree. On the other side of the pond SMWF seemed to attract a number of your contemporaries. @JonIngham and @MattAlder were in the house but unfortunately there was not much evidence of inhouse HR people. There is a relevant HR conversation to be had in relation to these business events and HR is slowly waking up to it. But is it too late?

  7. blogging4jobs says

    @Charlie_elisa & @mid247 there was a number of UK attendees. In fact, they even had a British Breakfast which I happily attended.

    @mid247 We are late to the game but not out completely. There are so many great HR peeps that have an excellent social media knowledge base. Let’s showcase our talents!

    Thanks for both your comments. And Charlie, it looks as though I will be back in London very soon. We need to chat.

  8. Charee Klimek says

    Very much looking forward to the discussions around this topic! Your points on SXSW and gaining greater understanding of the interactive space is right on. It would be great too if HR were exposed and open to additional associations and resources including PR and Marketing. I’ve attended several conferences around social media where PR and Marketing presented their case studies and many included employee communications and engagement. These can be great learning experiences and ways to build stronger connections and relationships with internal teams helping to bridge divides and create better experiences externally and internally.


  1. […] 3 Tweets HRevolution: Our Mission Mission of HRevolution. 3 Tweets We Should Be HERE | Blogging4Jobs I just got back from the largest interactive media and technology conference, South by Southwest […]

  2. […] As a business owner, the choice is yours, but as an HR professional who’s audited piles of I-9′s, dealt with class action lawsuits, and handled more EEOC investigations than I care to admit, your startup and small business need HR just as much as you need cash flow to maintain your business. I only hope that SXSW panelists and session selections get the memo. Your interactive media conference just like the small business and startups need HR. But in the immediate future, HR should be here at SXSW. […]

  3. […] This year there are more HR, workplace and recruiting sessions submitted than ever improving our industry’s chances of increasing our visibility at such a large event like SXSW which had over 35,000 attendees where we can discuss topics such as HR Technology, social recruiting and our growing importance in big data and human capital workplace decisions. It’s the reason I’ve said since 2009, that HR should really be HERE at SXSW. […]


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