I was sitting in the cheap seats. There were probably 1,000 people in the audience and the speaker was doing a decent job holding my attention, which was impressive because I really wasn’t there for the content. I was doing it to bag out of booth duty. I hated booth duty. I would seethe on the inside when anyone referred to exhibiting at a trade show as “sales.”
I leaned over and whispered to my colleague, “I could do that” nodding in the direction of the stage. His look suggested he didn’t share my sentiment. A seed was planted. I was determined to prove him wrong.
My company loved exhibiting at trade shows. The problem was we did it completely wrong. Sure, it afforded a little face time with customers. It also afforded our executive team a week in cool places like San Diego and a few steak dinners. I didn’t want to eat steak. I wanted to close sales. When I was promoted I made a personal vow to get a much better ROI out of our event investments. My job was to grow the business.
SHRM was the trade association we supported and where I originally tested the idea of speaking in support of our sponsorship. It started with small breakout sessions at regional conferences. That evolved to delivering mega sessions at the SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition. That is where corporate clients started inquiring about hiring me to deliver keynotes.
Eventually I graduated and started my own speaking and training business. Today I deliver over 75 live events annually on business performance. I’ve attended every kind of conference and corporate meeting imaginable and there is one annual event that still stands out as the signature experience in my mind.
The SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition.
After missing out the last couple of years, I am thrilled to be attending #SHRM16 next week. I’ll see old friends, make new connections, get inspired by the truly epic keynotes (Blake Myckoskie and Jim Collins delivered two of the best talks I have ever seen at SHRM) and learn about the future of work from all of the expert practitioners.
I am also delivering a mega session Monday morning on Rethinking Human Resources.
I’ve attended over 100 SHRM events, keynoted my fair share and spent considerable time over the course of my career working with HR practitioners from every industry imaginable. I believe there has never been a better time to be in the function of human resources because talent and innovation has never been more imperative to the future success of an organization.
Consider the comments from LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner around their sales to Microsoft:
“Every day I come to work, I’m primarily guided by two things:
First, realizing our mission and vision. While this has always been top of mind for me, it’s never been more so than now.
The second thing I focus on every day is making our culture and values come to life. Ten years ago, had you asked me about culture and values I would have rolled my eyes and recited a line from Dilbert. But when I started as CEO I began to appreciate just how important they were. Culture and values provide the foundation upon which everything else is built. They are arguably our most important competitive advantage, and something that has grown to define us.”
The mission, vision, culture and values. The work that informs who is on the bus and how the work gets done is arguably “the most important competitive advantage” inside any organization. HR practitioners are well positioned to serve as the catalyst to lead business into the future and make a massive, game changing contribution. However, to deliver impact on that level requires thinking a little bit differently about the work. That is where I plan to take the conversation during my session on Monday.
If you are attending SHRM next week, I hope we get the opportunity to connect! See you in D.C.
Ryan Estis & Associates is a training and development organization helping companies, leaders, sales people and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance in the new economy. We offer keynotes, live classroom training and online learning that blends interaction, energy and actionable content designed to elevate performance. Contact us for programming inquiries and assistance determining the curriculum that could best support your learning and development objectives.
Ryan Estis is a Keynote Speaker & Management Consultant blogging about business performance.