Getting the Most Out of HR and Recruiting Conferences

October 14, 2015 at 1:04 PM by Rob Stevenson


Ah, conference season. The breakout sessions. The officially sanctioned hashtags. The haggard happy hour goers stumbling in at 10:30 AM on the second day. It's an exciting time to learn from some of the industry's top professionals, network with peers who have the same day-to-day challenges as you, and assess some exciting new tools and technology. But you're not just there to snag some booth swag and tweet your little heart out. If you're going to take a couple days out of the office to fly to a trade show, you'll want to make sure you get the most out of it. After being Entelo's go-to conference man and booth setter-upper for some time now, I've seen firsthand the difference between  doe-eyed attendees who are just along for the ride and the expense report, and the go-getters who are on a mission. Here's how you can go about planting yourself firmly in that second camp.

Research the Speakers

Any given conference will have an exciting cavalcade of presenters for you to choose from. Unfortunately, you can't see everyone, so you need to ensure you don't miss out on true edification just to hear a thought leader pad their own brand. Find the schedule of speakers beforehand, dig in to their background, and assess if they're someone you can learn from. For many presenters, it won't be their first rodeo, and their previous presentations are available on YouTube, Vimeo, or SlideShare. Videos and slideshows of previous talks are a great way to assess if they're someone you'll want to check out, or, if the talk they're giving is similar to one that's already available elsewhere, if it's one you can afford to skip at the event.

Also, make a point to attend breakout sessions that aren't aligned with your skillset. You may get more from a session about an area where you're less strong than one that covers things you work on everyday. Use the conference as an excuse to stretch your legs a bit and focus on parts of your role and industry you wouldn't normally look at in the day-to-day grind.

Work that Net

Conferences are one of the few times you'll be in a room surrounded by thousands of professionals just like yourself. Take the opportunity to ask people about what they're working on, share what's challenging about your own role, and swap some tricks and tips. One of the most telling questions you can ask a professional is "what's the hardest thing you're working on right now?", as it skips over the nitty gritty and into large scale projects and pie in the sky conceptual ideas.

Don't be the person that reads a fellow attendee's nametag and immediately sizes up their utility. Even if you aren't on the same frequency as another person, having more contacts never hurts, and there are still polite and diplomatic ways to remove yourself from conversations without being visibly disappointed in someone's title.

Talk Tech

You may be tempted to avoid eye contact and hurry past the elaborate booths of conference vendors, but remember, they're people too, and you don't HAVE to give them your contact info. Make sure to do a lap and have conversations with some friendly representatives (such as yours truly) of the companies building tools aimed at making you more productive and efficient. Conferences are a great way to skip directly to a product demo and see some tools in action without commiting to a full appointment or an exorbitant amount of follow-up emails. Worst case, you get some fun swag to take home.

Be in the Moment

Someone perhaps best known for his conference twitter snark, Matt Charney, recently told me he believed the real value in conferences came when you disengage social and start really digging in to new technologies and strategies. Monitoring conference hashtags and contributing can be fun and a great way to network, but don't get caught up in the internet points. Check out the entirety of my chat with Matt below.

How do you go about getting the most our of your conferences? Hit us up in the comments.