I planned on writing about simplification today. As the second theme of the recent HR Technology conference, it seems like an important message to ponder. However, as I was reading the other blogger accounts of the conference, I found that Steve Boese had a similar idea and wrote quite eloquently about simplification. So, go check out his posts because he captures the essence of how simplicity needs to factor in when thinking about technology solutions for HR:
HR Technology 2010, Simplicity, and Beer
So, now what will I write? As I am going through this exercise, it struck me that the most important and valuable aspect of this conference experience is not attending a specific session, briefing, or expo hall discussion. It’s breaking bread.
Breaking bread in the literal sense and in the figurative.
There is something comforting about sitting down with someone, forging new relationships and having honest discussion and debate. The feeling of magic and excitement you get when you’re meeting people who are energized about our industry and who want to do more, create more, learn more, teach more. And, it doesn’t make a difference if they are a practitioner, consultant, or vendor. It’s the current of collaborative possibility that runs through the HR Technology conference that gets to me. It’s the adrenaline I need.
In the act of sharing a meal or of sharing an idea, you are giving of yourself. You are exposing a bit of the tender underbelly and making yourself vulnerable, even if only for brief moments. You become more than just a persona or conference-goer, you become the “real” you. People talk a lot about the vendor parties and dinners and say that there are too many. Maybe. I see it from a different view. By attending them, you can give yourself this glimpse to see the CEO or other company leaders for who they really are. Guard down and interactive without selling, you get the feel for whether or not you are going to have a relationship with this person. Is this a person you want to work with? And, the relationships with the other attendees can form here as well.
Yes, breaking bread is valuable. It is an opportunity few may spend any time thinking about and what a shame if they miss this. I learned more and was able to bring all my ideas together in this way than I did in any single session or briefing. So next year, I’ll still view the agenda with excitement and I’ll still schedule a briefing or two. The REAL question is who is hosting the dinners and what can we learn from each other?
What do you think? Did you attend a vendor dinner and did you make any meaningful connections or have any great discussions? Or, did you just see people partying and not taking advantage of the situation they were in? Share in the comments.
*Special thank you to Alex Douzet, co-Founder and President of TheLadders.com for inspiring this story. Being able to have the intimate experience getting to know your team over dinner was amazing. Also, special thank you’s to Kris Dunn, Josh Letourneau, Tim Sackett, and Chris Frede for being open to share. Amazing night!
I couldn’t agree more with your sentiment. The time spent in the seminars and on the expo floor was valuable, but not nearly as much as the time spent meeting and getting to know the community. I would even go so far as to say the hosted evening affairs were great, but the ad hoc evening events were even more so.
(For a moment, I thought your post title was “baking” bread. I thought you were going to start on the cooking blog that Laurie warned me about.)
My biggest take-away from the conference was the people I met. The participants, the speakers and the vendors. Everywhere you looked you found a smart group of people and breaking bread is the best way to really get to know them.
The Ladders folks are very impressive and I too enjoyed speaking with them.