9 ways to expand your hr network at #shrm16

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In just a few days, tens of thousands of HR professionals will descend on Washington, D.C. to attend the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) Annual Conference. If it’s your first conference—or your fifth—the size and scale of the conference can be a bit daunting.

Amidst what can feel like a sea of HR professionals, you might think it’s impossible to make meaningful connections or expand your network. But it’s not. Here are nine easy ways to expand your HR network during SHRM 2016:

Before SHRM 2016:

1. Join an online discussion.

If you’re attending this year’s conference, you have access to the online discussion boards via the SHRM website. Check them out and see what your peers are discussing. If there’s a topic that’s of interest to you, add a comment and see where it takes you.

2. Post on Twitter.

Use the hashtag #SHRM16 to post your thoughts and questions about the conference on Twitter. Once you’re at the conference, use this hashtag to keep the conversation going by tweeting session highlights. If you’re not in D.C. for the conference, taking part in the #SHRM16 conversation on Twitter is a good way to stay involved in the discussion from the comfort of your office.

3. Look up former colleagues.

You can also expand your HR network by reconnecting with former colleagues. A few years ago, I was traveling to a conference on my own. In the past, I’d always been part of a team. The week before my flight left I realized—suddenly—that I would be on my own. That’s when I logged in to check out who else was attending and (happily) found a former colleague on the list. I sent off an email, and we made plans to meet for dinner during the conference.

4. Review the vendor list.

One of the great opportunities available to you at the Annual SHRM Conference is the chance to meet and compare multiple vendors in one convenient location. Before you arrive at the conference, check out what companies will have booths in the Exhibition Hall. Highlight those you want to meet and make a plan to stop by their booth at some point during the conference. (Be sure to stop by O.C. Tanner, booth #3324!)

During SHRM 2016:

5. Talk to people at breakfast or lunch.

It’s easy to sit down for a meal and start checking your email, or scan your Facebook Newsfeed on your phone. I get it…we all need a few minutes to ourselves. But during at least a few meals, try to strike up a conversation with the people at your table. You never know what you may have in common, and how the guy enjoying his turkey sandwich is someone who would be a great addition to your larger HR network.

6. Talk to people before and after sessions.

Chances are the people attending the same sessions as you have similar questions, interests, and workplace challenges. Engage the person next to you in a conversation and find out what you have in common and what insights you might be able to share.

7. Talk to presenter after the session.

SHRM selects presenters based on their expertise and the value of their information as it relates to an audience of HR practitioners. After the presentation, make a point of introducing yourself to the presenter, share your business card, or ask a follow-up question. Presenters always appreciate hearing from audience members, and talking one-on-one provides an opportunity for you to make a new meaningful connection.

8. Strike up a conversation on the shuttle.

Make your ride to and from the airport, or between the hotel and the conference center, more enjoyable by finding out a few things about your fellow passengers. You never know how the person sitting next to you might expand your network, or how a brief discussion might deliver insights that improve your day-to-day job.

After SHRM 2016:

9. Follow-up after the conference.

If you’ve used every tip above, you’ll have at least nine people with whom you should follow-up. (I’m willing to bet you’ll have at least twice as many.) While it’s easy to get back to work and feel overwhelmed by the meetings, emails, and HR emergencies you may have missed, make sure you don’t forget about following-up with the people you met. Possibly the most important step in expanding your professional network is to diligently maintain those connections once you’ve made them.

Of course SHRM 2016 isn’t just about networking. If you’re looking for more information about how to make the most of your time while at the show, check out this infographic that contains essential conference tips about planning for sessions, finding power for your devices, and wearing comfortable shoes.

By liz sheffield
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