Leaving Las Vegas: SHRM Style

by Frank Roche on June 30, 2011

in Communication, Conferences

Such a muddy line between
The things you want
And the things you have to do

–Sheryl Crow, Leaving Las Vegas

I’m leaving Las Vegas. I came here for SHRM’s Annual Conference. It was one of the things you have to do.

There were some really great moments:

Michael J. Fox. His speech was very emotional. I don’t often find myself crying during a speech in front of 14,000 people. I didn’t care. Michael J. Fox’s story is so powerful, and his call to action — Don’t play the result — really resonated with me. Coolest line? Fame is like Miracle-Gro for your character flaws. I’d say in business, authority is like Miracle-Gro for your character flaws.

Sir Richard Branson. An amazing businessman and adventurer. Perhaps the last of my generation. Amazing story. He was interviewed by a SHRM moderator. To a person, we all agreed that the interview was terrible. Plus, SHRM leaders spent 45 minutes patting themselves on the back and made it so the terrible Branson interview had to be cut short. Cool part was that Branson outshone all of them. And that was just the tip of his pinkie finger.

Keith Urban. The dude’s a rock star who sells records to country music people. His show was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. And he did it for the Dockers crowd. Really had people up and dancing in their Sketchers.

There were some pretty bad moments:

The Las Vegas Convention Center. Nearly all convention centers are monstrosities. The Las Vegas Convention Center is the model for ugly box convention centers. The fact that it’s a $10-to-$15 taxi ride from a decent hotel makes it all bad to me. Compound that with a business partner who has a stress fracture on her foot and imagine that. Sarah at some point looked down and said, “How did I end up with another person’s foot?” Feet swell walking around a place like that when you’re healthy. When you’re injured, it’s a nightmare.

Vendors Humping Their Products. If you want to see HR pros talk, go to WorldatWork, PEBA or The Conference Board. If you want to see a lot of vendors and consultants talk, go to SHRM. I’m going to add this up when I get home, but my first pass at the program looked like 75% of the talks were by people who wanted to sell you something. If you went to some of the talks, you’d wonder how they sell anything. Of course, I didn’t go to all the talks, and there were some good ones. But from what I heard from a lot of people, you had to work to really be dazzled. (Although, cleary there were plenty of attendees who owned Bedazzlers.)

SHRM’s Self-Congratulation Fest. The SHRM volunteers who did the hard work should be congratulated. SHRM execs standing on stage doing an awkward song-and-dance deserved the hook. Plus, saying they have a small staff OF THREE HUNDRED EMPLOYEES doesn’t sound like a small organization. They stood up there and almost cried poor, then congratulated themselves for so many people coming to the conference. And the fact that they have 260,000 members. Not once did they set a vision or talk about how they’re driving positive change in business. Too much self-congraulation can make you go blind, SHRM.

There was some pretty awesome heat:

The temperature peaked at 108F on Tuesday. I sat outside in it for a while. It was fine. It was a dry heat.

Now it’s time to listen to Sheryl Crow. From the most unreal city in America to the most real: Philly.

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