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Attending HR Tech? 10 tips to make it your best yet

Steve Boese, HR Tech Conference chair
Steve Boese
Steve Boese is HRE's Inside HR Tech columnist and chair of HRE’s HR Technology Conference®. He also writes a blog and hosts the HR Happy Hour Show, a radio program and podcast.

Some years back (when blogging was still a thing), one of the most popular posts on my old “HR Tech blog” was the annual Unofficial Guide to the HR Tech Conference—in which I showcased key highlights, activities and opportunities at the conference each year.

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Since I no longer post that blog, and the good folks at Human Resource Executive are kind enough to let me borrow this space once per month, I figured I would try an updated version of the Unofficial Guide in more of a “tips” format. With HR Tech less than two weeks away, it’s a great time to begin finalizing your schedule for the event—and I hope my tips can help!

1. Take advantage of the conference’s opening day activities.

Hopefully, your travel plans allow you to be with us in Las Vegas starting Oct. 9, as we have a fantastic set of sessions and workshops lined up. With experts from Mercer, Sapient Insights and i4cp included on the agenda, you won’t want to miss these educational opportunities. And you’ll have a head start on the conference, as the insights you’ll take away from Monday will help you make the most of your week at HR Tech.

2. Plan out your schedule, but be flexible—and leave some time to explore.

Once again, this year’s agenda is packed, and we have a record number of content sessions across the keynotes, mega sessions, case studies, HR Tech Talks and more. You’ll want to spend some time thinking about which sessions you’d like to attend and even make a backup selection (or two) just in case we have to play nice with the fire marshal and cap attendance in any given session.

But also, leave some room in your day to linger a little longer in the Expo Hall or take in one of the vendor demo sessions. You should even leave some time to chat with the new friends you have made (more on that to come). It is a conference, not a synchronized swimming contest—you don’t have to know every step you are going to take in advance.

3. Don’t travel (all the time) in the same pack.

If you are attending the conference with some of your co-workers (which is awesome), make sure not to spend all of your time traveling in one group. Split up and cover different sessions, engage with other attendees and peers during general sessions and meals, and make some new friends if you attend any events after hours.

You want to make sure you are not just seeing and interpreting things through the same lens that you use back in the office—and sometimes, breaking away from your co-workers, even for a little while, can help you to do this.

4. Plan at least one “Vegas” experience that has nothing to do with the conference.

If you are a regular on the HR conference circuit, you may be a little tired of Las Vegas. But if you are not a frequent visitor (or even if you are), there is so much to do and see in the city that you should try to find some time away from work. A few recommendations:

  • The Neon Museum: Wonderful vintage neon signs, great picture-taking opportunities and an “old” Vegas vibe.
  • Superfrico and “OPM”: A “super” fun evening of great, home-cooked-style food (Superfrico) and an inventive, creative, unique show (“OPM”) make this a perfect way to spend a free night in Vegas.
  • Catch a show: While some of the “big” shows look to be already sold out (Katy Perry, Wayne Newton), there are still plenty of entertainment options during HR Tech. Most of the Cirque de Soleil shows are running, as well as plenty of comedy and magic shows. Going to a cheesy “Vegas” show is an underrated good time, and if you have not been to one for a bit, it can be a fun, lower-key way to spend an evening in Vegas.

5. Don’t go overboard at night.

HR Tech is closer to a marathon than a sprint. I suppose it is more like a 10K or maybe even a half-marathon. Anyway, with the program at HR Tech lasting five days, you have a long week ahead of you. So, going too wild at night, especially early in the week, is a recipe for a long week! Have fun, but begin with the end in mind, as they say.

6. Say “hi” to me (and anyone you really want to connect with).

I want to meet as many people as I can, and I am sure you do, too. Chances are, you might want to chat with one of our amazing speakers or industry experts who will be leading sessions throughout the event. So, make sure you do! All these execs and leaders are highly approachable and generous with their time and insight. If there is someone—anyone—you want to meet, then don’t let a long line of people stop you from doing just that.

One of the best aspects of the HR tech community is how much everyone wants to help, especially HR leaders who are interested in how HR technology can help them and their organizations move forward.

7. Take a rest in the middle of the week.

At some point during HR Tech week, you will want/need to take a little time to recharge. This could mean ducking out a little early from one of the parties, taking a power nap in your room after the last session of the day and before heading out for the evening, or it could be as simple as passing on that third dessert from the buffet.

You probably can’t go full speed all day and night in Las Vegas all week and come out feeling good on the other side. Find a spot to get some rest, maybe hit the spa or the pool (it will still be pretty hot), and get ready for the last part of the run.

8. Talk to the vendors in the Expo Hall (especially the ones you have never heard of).

I know attendees will spend the bulk of their expo time walking from booth to booth, checking out the vendors they are familiar with or interested in learning more about, and maybe entering a contest or two. However, I really recommend spending some expo time learning about at least a few vendors you have never heard about before. I can assure you there are hundreds of exceptional solutions just waiting to be discovered.

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And don’t walk past our Start-up Pavilion, where about 75 HR tech start-ups will be exhibiting in one area, without stopping. It will be a missed opportunity if you don’t walk away from HR Tech with at least one new provider to follow up with after the conference.

9. Don’t skip Friday.

Drag your tired self out of bed to make it down for the last half-day of the conference. I encourage anyone attending HR Tech, or anyone still considering making the trip, to plan on attending through the full slate of events, concluding with what I consider is the strongest lineup of content and thought leader experts we’ve ever had for HR Tech’s closing day. With Stacey Harris, Brian Sommer, Mervyn Dinnen and Jason Averbook all scheduled to speak, you will want to ensure you don’t miss the best “last” day we’ve ever had.

10. Connect with as many people as you can.

This may seem like a boring tip since everyone who advises about conferences always includes a recommendation like this—but this is my most important one. The truth is, the most enduring value anyone gets from HR Tech comes from the people you meet, the relationships you build and the connections you forge. Your next customer, vendor partner, boss, employee or maybe your new best friend just might be at HR Tech.

But you have to take some initiative to connect. And for some folks (like me), that is not always the easiest or most natural thing to do. But you should try anyway. Even if you set a simple goal of connecting with one or two new people each day at the conference, it will be worth the effort.

I hope these tips help! We are set to have the biggest, most exciting conference yet, and I am sure it will be worth your time to attend—professionally and personally.

By the way, you can still register for HR Tech 2023 here. Hope to see you there!