At the end of next week I’m off to #SHRM12 in Atlanta and I’m excited. I’m a bit giddy because this is a huge conference/ with over 10,000 people attending. I’ve never been to a conference of this size (unless you count #SXSW and I really only party hopped there),    and there’s lots of great sessions to get along to. Being a huge event, there’s also plenty of party invites to sort out and get to.  That is a full-time job in itself. Aside from all the hullaballoo, there is an important reason for being there as both a blogger and participant. I’m fortunate to have the assistance of Dice.Com in getting to Atlanta. Once again, Dice come up trumps when it comes to working with the blogging community and other social connectors. For Atlanta, as well as supporting a team of bloggers in attending they are providing a social hive to connect us with HR practitioners interested in exploring social. I’m going to be putting in 4 shifts in the hive and I’m really looking forward to it. @employersonDice, working with Sarah White, @ImSoSarah, are doing a fantastic job supporting events whilst promoting their own brand as community partners. Hats off to them, and thanks. Theres also a great social site for connecting called the Buzz. I’ve posted the link at the end of this post. You should check it out.

Over the course of the event between June 24′th and 27′th I’m going to be live blogging from a number of sessions each day, as well as posting links to all the other content that others are publishing. Look out for the daily round-up. In the build up to the event I’ve been getting plenty of e-mails inviting me to have one-to-one meetings with vendors. I have received 41 so far, from all kinds of businesses. It is clear from some that these are mass e-mails sent to everyone on the blog squad, whilst others have taken a more tailored approach to reaching out and link what I write about to what they do. They have obviously taken the time to look at what I do and have given me a good reason to connect and get together. It is the latter who have got my full attention and are most likely to get featured.

I’m not a big fan of the way conferences divide the community of contributors between vendors, practitioners, bloggers etc, dividing people in to silos. I think this is quite an old-fashioned approach to what people actually are. At #tru events I don’t use the term vendor for this reason. I believe that we ALL work inclusively in the people space. We have different perspectives, expertise and opinions based on what we do, but collectively we are stronger. If I was at #SHRM12 to sell a service or a product I would be approaching it to have as many conversations as possible and to create opportunities for accidental engagement. Every networking event I go to I meet a new set of “go to” guys. If you work in the mobile sector, you probably know more about the mobile sector than anyone else in the conversation, if you consult on incentives, payroll systems or anything similar, you’re going to know more about this aspect of the market. If you work as a practitioner in HR, perhaps as a generalist, you’re going to have your own unique experience, problems and war stories to share that have a very practical benefit in the conversation. Your voice and needs must be heard to make better products, services and practices for everyone, not least the real users, jobseekers and employees.

As an event disorganiser, speaker and commentator I want storys to tell and share from everyone. I don’t care if it came what the source is, or the perspective, it is the story and the conversation that really interests me. I think that marketeers are only just beginning to understanding influence and reach. The vendor/practitioner divide suggests an old model of business where you are either a buyer or a seller, defined by the badge you wear. I intend meeting a lot of people who do all kinds of things at #SHRM12. It is why I will be getting on a plane and flying half way around the world. In the future I’m going to be writing or speaking about some of them and some of them will hopefully be doing the same about me. I’m going to be connecting some of these people with the people I know now and the people I get to know in the future. I hope some of them will be doing the same for me. It is unlikely that many of them will ever sell me anything, but through me they might reach or meet people who will buy from them. We can also help each other with guidance, advice or feedback when it’s needed. We do this because our meeting is the beginning of our connection and not a one-off transaction or sale. When I advise people what to buy, I advise them to buy from people I know. Social media channels provide the opportunity to stay connected. The old model of meetings at conferences and events being the one and only opportunity to pitch is long gone, it should be seen as the chance to connect and begin a conversation that leads to a deeper relationship.

When I was at #truBudapest i got to meet Boris Golden who is part of the team behind the excellent LinkedIn sourcing app Pealk. I reviewed their product a few months ago after a friend had forwarded it to me to take a look at. Boris advised me that they can trace over 250 sign ups direct to the post, and they were sure there were many more from the noise it created. This conversation really opened my eyes to the benefit of being able to offer reach to a target audience combined with a degree of influence and trust. I understand why people with potential customers in my target audience might want to plug-in to this, and i’m no different to many of the other bloggers taking part in #SHRM12. Geography is also no issue in this. Reach and influence is no longer a local issue. Good content is universal, and it is collaboration that creates great content.

What I think Dice have done very well is create the connection with all of the bloggers by investing in supporting us without asking for anything in return. Goodwill goes a long way, and where there is an opportunity to return the favor we will. I’m very excited about what is going to be happening in the hive. Interestingly I’ve never thought of Dice as a vendor, and they have never referred to themselves in this way.

My take away from this so far is a reminder that we need to stop dividing the vendors from the attendees and think of everyone as contributors. My advice to those e-mailing me from the exhibitor hall is that I’m more than happy to meet with as many of you as possible. I’m not really interested in your product or your service, I’m interested in your take on the market we are ALL share, the people market. You are going to have a lot more knowledge and insight in your piece of the people space, and if we connect I will always look at your product or service to do that. This could be by webinar, call or just by signing up and poking around. I want to use our valuable meeting time to talk the market, and where we might be able to help each other in the future. Lets stop thinking vendor, and really think contributor in the space. I don;t need anymore stress balls, pens or postits. I don;t have enough room in my bag for all the brochures i could take away, besides, i’d rather connect and check you out on-line after the event, if everybody did that we could maybe save a rain forest. If you want to connect with me in Atlanta, whatever you are there for, if your contributing lets connect.

Thanks again to Dice. I can’t wait for the talking and connecting to start. Bring on the hive!


#SHRM12 Buzz Social Site