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HRevolution: What Worked, What Didn’t

Originally posted: May 5, 2011 on TrishMcFarlane.com

Three days after HRevolution and I’m still on an adrenaline high.  I’ve recovered from the feeling of sheer exhaustion from the planning perspective and have spent the last few days reading the praises, and the criticisms, of the event.  The beautiful thing is that because of social media and blogging, the organizers receive our feedback during and immediately following the event. I’m already making note so that we can apply what we’ve learned as continuous improvement.

It’s a good feeling that after only a few days, there have been well over 20 posts written, multiple photo streams, a tear-jerker video by Paul Hebert,  and a radio show (DriveThru HR) to begin analyzing what was learned.  Posts have been serious and funny, thoughtful and philosophical.  We even have a HRevolution speaker playlist and how cool is that?  I can’t think of a time I’ve been to a traditional conference where anyone was so moved they created a playlist.  So, I’ve read and absorbed, often teary eyed, because whether positive or negative, we’ve touched a chord in people.  For that, I’m grateful.

My HRevolution feedback contribution will be different. I want to share what it was like being on the planning side.

My fellow organizers, Ben Eubanks, Steve Boese, and Crystal Peterson, began talking about this event in October 2010.  By November, we decided on the city to host HRevolution 2011 and put our tickets up for sale.  December and January brought outreach to former sponsors to gauge interest and by then, a few new sponsors emerged.  I’m thankful we have Monster, Ceridian, Aquire, SHRM, Pinstripe, and PeopleMatter as our supporters.  With backing like that, it enables us as planners to rest assured we will be able to provide the atmosphere needed for participants to have the industry discussions we want them to.

Four months in advance is really when our planning kicks into gear.  While I take the role of working through sponsorships, Steve was busy with session ideas.  He took the blog posts that followed last year’s event, our surveys, what was being said on our blogs at the time, and Twitter comments to begin to craft a list of what people wanted to talk about.  He then compared that to the 51 (yes, fifty-one) submissions he received with requests to speak.  It’s a hard job because sometimes we know we have great speakers who have a topic that just doesn’t match what we’re being asked to provide.  Ultimately, he created a list that to the best of our ability, addressed what our potential attendees asked for.  That is VERY unconference like in approach.

Crystal is the master at making sure we have the facilities and equipment we need for a successful event.  She works tirelessly, day after day, to create that.  I am more impressed with her skills each year.  And Ben, he keeps our website, LinkedIn, FaceBook, and Twitter going with great information.  Ben’s role is a little different because it really kicks into gear about a month before the event and stays busy until at least a month after the event.  So today, while Steve, Crystal and I are just tying up our loose ends and planning the next one, Ben is still working on this event.

My goal this year was to arrive, participate, and have fun.

I say that because in prior years, I’ve been running around like crazy, worried about every little detail.  I realized that once it’s planned, I need to sit back and just participate.  No more running around worrying about the agenda or badges.  Those things are not important to our participants.  What IS important is that we are there to network and connect with people.

I enjoyed an engaging dinner and night out on Thursday with about fifteen people who arrived early.  Special shout-out and thanks to Robin Schooling for flying in early to help and support me.  She was amazing!  Debbie Brown also stepped up and grabbed all the items we needed locally.  Thanks Debbie!  Friday morning kicked off with a breakfast with Mike Grindell and the Atlanta SHRM board members.  Although Mike was unable to come, you all should know that he, along with Tim Gardner and Mike Haberman, were so helpful early on in providing information and ideas for venues.  Without people like that on the ground, planning would not go as smoothly as it did for us.  Friday afternoon brought the opportunity to connect with Nate DaPore and the PeopleMatter crew at their product launch luncheon.  They invited all the HRevolution attendees who had arrived and it was a great time.

I spent the rest of Friday in the hotel lobby visiting, at Marlow’s for an impromptu tweetup, and at the HRevolution tweetup that night.  We still had not visited, hugged, kissed, chatted, nor debated enough, so we ended the night on the rooftop bar sitting around the fire.  So, no running around for me.  Just talking.  Hugs. Sincere gratitude that I have each of these people in my life, making me a better professional and a better person.

The event itself was a success for me.  I measure that by seeing the attendees engaged, smiling, and talking.  I also view myself as a participant so here is a brief look at what I personally thought worked and what I could do without or change at the next HRevolution:

Rocked It

  • Venue, cost, and food
  • Diverse line of of speaker that included several CEOs, a CHRO, business owners, HR practitioners, and consultants
  • Lots of networking opportunities
  • Pinstripe’s “Meet MeMe” trading cards were the bomb!
  • All the attendees who also volunteered to help with preparation and set up
  • Liz Gottung- Holy cow! Great HR for sure
  • Sponsors who participate fully in the event
  • The most engaged audience you’ll find at an event
  • Bacon cupcakes! Nomnomnom
  • Bacon basket give away from Lyn Hoyt
  • Monster giving away an iPad 2, Kindles and other items
  • SHRM raffling off several passes to the annual conference.  Now that is commitment!

Even Better If

  • We stopped trying to figure out if it’s a conference or un-conference.  Honestly, it’s neither.  It’s HRevolution. An event, a community, a reunion of sorts.  Call it what you like but I’m done wasting my breath on this point.
  • Participants need to talk.  Most do and some still don’t.  Perfection to me is the day we get every single participant comfortable enough to share their thoughts.  It’s OUR event, not the planners’ event.  So, for next time I hope everyone is ready to roll up their sleeves and duke it out….or hug…or both.
  • Wishing the gospel choir next door hadn’t interrupted Josh Letourneau and Eric Winegardner’s sessions near the end
  • We need a better way to gather info on what people would like to see in a session.
  • The planners, all of us, need to continue to “let it be” and enjoy when we’re there.
  • We can incorporate more west-coast attendees in the future
  • We need a band….anyone know Hall & Oates?

So that’s my take.  Thank you to everyone who finds value in the event.  Many lessons I learned there will come into play in future posts.

Viva la Revolution!  We’ll see you in Vegas on 10/2/11 in conjunction with the HR Technology Conference!

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