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HR Tech Expo: How to make a plan (and have fun!)

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.

Among the many compelling reasons for HR, IT and business leaders to attend HR Tech is the chance to experience the world-famous HR Tech Expo. With more than 400 HR and work tech providers exhibiting on the expo floor, close to 100 tech demos and thought leadership sessions scheduled and activities like the exciting Pitchfest competition, the HR Tech Expo is where attendees can get hands-on with the technology that’s changing HR—and connect with the industry’s biggest voices.

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But the amazing size and scope of the expo can make it a little challenging to navigate and make the most of—especially as you look to learn about new products and technology of interest, take in some of the fantastic content and have fun (and perhaps score some prizes and swag!).

Since the conference is coming up fast, I thought I’d share a few of my top expo tips, learned from about 15 years of attending HR Tech, to help you make the most of your HR Tech Expo adventures.

Review the exhibition map and list of exhibitors

You can find the Expo Hall map and exhibitor list here (and on the mobile app), and I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the overall layout of the hall before heading in. Take note of the locations you know you’ll want to visit, like the Pitchfest Theater, the vendor demo rooms, the Case Study and Tech Talk theaters and, of course, the vendors you are planning to check out (more on that later).

Especially for first-time attendees, having a general understanding of the expo before walking in for the first time can keep you from getting overwhelmed. Plus, preparing may help you surface a few providers of interest that you will want to note.

Prioritize the providers

Have a plan and enjoy the moment at HR Tech
Have a plan and enjoy the moment at HR Tech (Photo from 2021)

With 400-plus providers in the expo, it would be impossible, and probably a bad idea, to attempt to spend time with all of them—probably even half of them. So, to ensure you get the most value from your expo time, have a game plan.

First, make a short list of the “must-see” exhibitors. These could be existing partners, ones you are in the process of evaluating or even some you have just been dying to learn more about. That may be three or five or 15—whatever the number, make sure you get to them early if you can.

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After listing your “musts,” think about the next group of providers you’d like to check out: former partners, new and emerging HR tech companies, or even some you have just heard about in the run-up to the show. Or it may be one that has the best swag or coolest giveaway! Try to have an idea of who else beyond your top tier you want to meet.

Review the schedule of expo presentations and events

The HR Tech Expo is not just an expo—it is an interactive and engaging set of events and learning opportunities. With a full schedule of Tech Talks, Case Studies, Demo Theater presentations, ChatHRT roundtables, Pitchfest and the live “HR Happy Hour Show,” you have plenty of things to do and see outside of meeting with the exhibitors. Review the agenda here and give yourself enough time to make your way through the expo to the event of your choice.

Meet at least 3 new providers

While you can’t meet with every exhibitor, once you find your way to your top- and medium-priority providers, take at least some time to explore (which can easily take hours!) There are so many interesting, innovative and exciting exhibitors to see in every corner of the hall—even at the far ends and the wayyyyyy back!

Give providers you are just learning about for the first time a bit of your attention and try to engage with at least three (or more, if you have time). It will be worth your time and help you understand and more about the latest innovations in the HR technology market. If you are not sure where to start, head to the Start-up Pavilion, where you can easily discover dozens of new HR technologies in a very short time.

Finally, have fun!

The HR Tech Expo is like a playground for the HR technology community, and the first rule of any playground is to have fun! I recommend entering contests, picking up swag, enjoying a beverage at the Pub Crawl on Tuesday night, and generally having a good time! I’m sure you have had an incredibly busy year, and you deserve a little bit of a reward as you pull yourself away from work, family and friends for a few days to come to HR Tech. So, enjoy your time!

The countdown to HR Tech and the opening of the expo is officially on! I can’t wait until the doors open and thousands of attendees flood the expo—eager to learn, discover, network and have fun. I’ll see you there!