Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Are HR Stars Like Famous Professors?

My project social partner Dave Ryan and I were chatting last week about HRevolution, which sounds like it was a great event. I was jealous but my newborn has very self-centered ideas about my travel availability.

Anyway, there seem to be a LOT of HR conferences to choose from these days and some folks seem to attend quite a few of them. So Dave was wondering why and how they do it, which he’s written about over at HR Official, and I was wondering who benefits and where you draw the line.

Lyn H, our new project social team member, also has some sizzling thoughts on this that you can read about over at the HR Bacon Hut. (Get it? Sizzling bacon?)

Obviously if you’re an analyst or someone who’s paid to be seen it makes sense to attend as many conferences as you can but does the same logic apply to HR practitioners? Do their companies benefit from all the conferences they attend?

Maybe it’s like the famous professor who does the lecture circuit while his graduate students teach his courses. The university benefits because the professor’s fame attracts students even in absentia and contributes to name recognition of the school. Similarly, perhaps attending and/or speaking at lots of conferences helps promote your brand and attract top talent.

Or maybe the company benefits from all the knowledge that is brought back. It stands to reason that the more conferences you attend the more knowledge you acquire. And with that fountain of knowledge you can overhaul your current processes, improve leadership quality and finally get that seat at the table.

Or maybe you already have a seat at the table and that’s why you’re able to persuade your boss that you + conference = major ROI. Way to go, you! In fact, you’re wasted in HR, you should be in marketing.

But seriously, I’m curious: How many conferences are enough? And which ones? And most importantly, how do you apply what you learn at your own company?

Dave, Lyn and I want to know!


  1. When I first read the post title, I confess - I thought you were going to suggest that, like a certain famous professor, famous HR folks should have fedoras and whips ;)

    With regards to the benefit, however, I'd argue that the befit is less about "more knowledge" and more about "more creativity". Great conversations and ideas happen at these types of events, and if you have a high-performing team member (be they in HR or elsewhere) you want to help keep that fire burning - I suggest it's as simple as that.

    That, and some people are just better at convincing their companies about the development benefits of conferences. I wouldn't be surprised if HR departments (in general) were better at this than others, so I'd expect to see a higher rate of repeat-attenders in HR.

  2. Laura, thanks for including me in your Project Social circle. Love your post. Alas my goal is to become that professor, with others delegated at home to run my business. And I do wonder the reasoning behind what conferences people choose and why? Vendors typically chose on the school of thought that the more people attend, the better. If you exhibit at ASTD with thousands of attendees streaming by, is that statistically better than meeting 150 real people you can have a conversation with and then they tweet that conversation to their 100's or 1000's of followers? The model is changing. I hope for a way to measure REAL reach and influence one day. Does not matter if you are offering valuable information, gaining valuable knowledge or selling a "thing", sharing our message or what we learn is the benefit.

  3. It really is hard to know who extracts value from these events, and what that value is. I know that I get a great deal of value, and learn a lot at every event I attend. I ma just curious how others see this, measure this and quantifiy it.

  4. Now I can't stop imagining my college professors in fedoras... I'm all for conferences but where do you draw the line?

  5. Now I can't stop imagining my college professors in fedoras... I'm all for conferences but where do you draw the line?

    Thanks for your great comments!


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