As I go through my notes and thoughts about all the experiences from Talent Net Live in Austin last week, and the surrounding SXSW event, I find there are a few key themes to what I either learned or reconfirmed:
- There really is a value of building social relationships. I realized this the most during a conversation with Gareth Jones. Gareth came from London and is someone I have had the pleasure of meeting online and meeting in person. As we talked about our work, our families, the event, our thoughts on the panel we were on together at TNL, and about our respective events (HRevolution and Connecting HR), it became clear that he is someone who helps me be a better person. He pushes himself and pushes me to create better outcomes. As the weekend progressed, I found example after example of people who have passion and drive for the work they do. These are all people I originally connected with online and now they are like my family. My work product would not be at the level it is without learning from Craig Fisher, Jason Seiden, Eric Winegardner, Matt Charney, Sarah White, Maren Hogan, Michael Long, Alicia Arenas, Bill Boorman, William Tincup, Crystal Miller, Jessica Miller Merrill, Rayanne Thorn, Dr. Daniel Crosby, Joel Cheesman, Travis Blythe, Marc Mapes, and more.
- Language matters. I had the pleasure of participating on a panel about Talent Communities. What I heard from my co-panelists is that language matters. The word talent is a sensitive one as is the word community. Some prefer talent network, others just network. All in all, the underlying need to connect employees and candidates came out as the most important way to create stronger engagement and better hires.
- Be yourself. I packed professional, attractive clothes for the trip along with some yoga pants, jeans, tees and Under Armour. When the weather turned rainy and cold, I ditched the professional for comfort and was reminded that I am just as smart “dressed down” and that it didn’t deter anyone from having deep, meaningful, challenging conversations about serious issues.
- Conflict can make or break you. The take away here is that a little conflict can go a long way. I’ve written before that you need some amount of friction to bring about change and learning. I still believe that. There is a point of taking it too far though and the take away is that if you attend a conference, make sure that your conflict (whether on an issue or with a person) does not get in the way of other people learning. It can become an unwanted distraction.
- A word of support goes a long way. Not much to add here other than you sometimes don’t know you have impacted someone profoundly by a word or a hug. Then, months or years later, they come tell you that you did. Great feeling!
- Keep your competition close to drive innovation. People often ask me why I participate in events with Craig Fisher (founder of Talent Net Live) and Bill Boorman (founder of TRU events). The truth is that there are few people who can take an idea and build it into something real and profitable. The three of us created similar events for different target markets. So, while not direct competitors, there is certainly some overlap in the space we draw attendees from. That said, the time I spend talking to them pushes me to break through barriers on how to change my own event for the better. So, by talking and collaborating with people others view as my competitors, I find that I am able to provide a better outcome for my event participants.
- Mexican food is everywhere in Austin. Period. Never ate anything else the whole trip.
- Conferences are hard work. I know this from personal planning experience but I appreciate it even more when I see another hard-working team like Craig Fisher, Sarah White, Crystal Miller and Marianthe Verver pull and event together.
- Panels are good if the questions are good. I really dislike being on a panel because it limits what you can share. If the questions don’t align with the panelist being able to share their opinion on the topic, it doesn’t work as well. My preference is to start with one over-arching question for the group and let the conversation take it from there.
- Don’t let time getting away from you be a barrier to learning. The one thing I like about a less structured event is that if the entire group would like to continue talking about a particular topic, they can. It doesn’t matter if there is another session starting, there is always a way to break away from the group and continue discussing and debating on the topic you are most interested in.
- Discussion leads to learning for a greater number of people. Talent Net Live reinforced my opinion with regard to discussion and learning. I realize that people can learn from a presentation for 50 minutes and 5 minutes of Q&A, however, when you see a room of 75 people come alive with discussion and questions throughout a session, it really drives the interaction. For me, it’s much more valuable.
Thanks to Pinstripe Talent for sponsoring my attendance and to Craig Fisher and his team for another fabulous learning event. I encourage everyone to check out the next Talent Net Live in Dallas, April 2nd.