Monday, September 23, 2019

Are Conferences still relevant today?

The king is dead, long live the king!

The social media was still trending with #NHRDNC19 -after the completion of the 22nd National Conference of the National HRD Network (on Sept19th & 20th at Chennai), when Dr Krish Shankar, the National President, who wasn't able to be physically present at the event due to a prior commitment, tweeted from overseas, post his commendatory messages to the teams that mattered, asked "While we are at it, need your views on how might NHRDN ‘reimagine’ ourselves? What more can NHRDN do for the HR fraternity?"

There were some insights shared by fellow professionals, including suggestions of a more robust real time online community -a la Quora, that was more inclusive, and enhance sharing thoughts, learning, and seamless integration between different regional chapters !! 

But what caught my attention more -was the quality of discussions in another tweet thread  as a senior HR leader raised some issues that seem to be affecting the very credibility of the Conference format. Quite uncanny, the timing was a sheer coincidence, as he clarified it was more a generic observation that has been disturbing him, as a regular speaker at similar events for over a decade now..

And yes, they triggered some interesting debates, offline and online -that twitter allows in its 280 character limit, and the follow up discussions. It is the nature of the engagements and the speed-that often brings in clarity.

With increasing numbers of delegates, have conferences tended to become very 'sponsor' specific, and often one hears of how speaker slots too are driven by them?.

My take ?

Conferences are what you make of them.

As a stakeholder, a delegate- who is neither an organizer, nor a sponsor, but a self employed professional -investing hard earned money and time to travel and attend, I see tremendous value in them!

It is best to remember we are amidst the most disruptive of times, when most established business models find their way to oblivion faster than before. One truly doesnt have the benefit of leveraging on post mortem. In a world -where one is constantly expected to evolve, I feel the conferences of tomorrow -will need to be leveraged differently from the ways it was done before.

I personally attend anywhere from 4- 5 conferences annually, across different industries-as it is my window to keeping in touch with the domains I specialize in. If social media is the window to my learning world, conferences have become just another arrow, in the quiver. Audio books, webinars, podcasts, apart from smaller formats (meet ups, breakfast sessions, round tables, and manthans!)

I have found it a perfect opportunity to also network with experts and practitioners -who are the hubs for my extended reach/learning opportunities. Most of the interesting moments are the ones-not likely in the sessions! For most presenters consider you as potential recipients -one way traffic of experiences/ideas -and I must confess what I look forward to most, are the Q& A sessions that often showcase more of the speakers true insights!

Psst... Keynote speeches are usually the ones I skip-and use the time to head for the booths to meet with others who are seemingly bored with such sessions! Some of the best new products are often on display, and one gets abreast with the state-of-art best practices /services.

(Panels too, unless they are steered by competent moderators, often tend to be forgettable experiences -with some getting away with the lion's share of the interactions..At best one gets a couple of quotable quotes from each speaker in the limited time!)

Thanks to the Internet, one can find quite a lot of social media footprints these days of most speakers, and one can watch videos of the talks/view the slides- and get some insights-even one is away from the conference. So, you would be better off -being in sync, and have the advantage of comparing notes, interacting and engaging with similar minded professionals.

Tips for first timers attending conferences?

In a world where the onus of ones career is now with the individual, I would advocate each one, at whichever stage of the life cycle of the career one is in, to take charge of ones own learning and development. In an ecosystem -where the mortality of companies is increasing, I would advice you, to pick and choose the right conference(s) in your domain and attend it, one your own cost (if the employer has a budget constraint -to be in sync with the latest!)

Remember -Networking is good for your career. One great connection can lead to new leanings, partnerships, ideas, and perhaps new opportunities..changing the way one approaches one work

Pick and choose which sessions to attend- by studying the conference schedule, and figuring out the break out sessions you would want to hone your knowledge with.  Watch the videos of the speakers ahead of the conference, and then strategize as to the kind of relationships one would like to build! Even setting up a phone call -or 30 minutes of one-to-one meeting outside of the conference context, will be a killer!

Yes, one more tip. It helps to build ones brand too. Polish one's social media profile, and focus of generating, if not curating content, using the conference hash tag! The visibility will be in good stead for your credibility in time. 

And hey presto, you will see how conferences can enhance both your personal and professional development, as well as providing you with tools that cannot be taught in-house, or even online.

I am excited -looking forward to the SHRM India Annual Conference -within the coming fortnight!! Yes, it is in Delhi on the 10/11th October. I must make a submission. I am a proud member of the SHRMIAC19 BlogSquad and so have a ringside view of the some action that is being promised to be on show..On offer is a WORLD OF OPPORTUNITIES TO ELEVATE YOUR GAME!

Psst -Should you register for the conference using the code BLOGSQUAD19, you will be entitled to an exclusive discount of 10%. Hurry up. Stay tuned for more social sharing messages using #SHRMIAC19 over the next fortnight. See you at the event!