HR Technology Conference 2011 – Going All In

Its hard to imagine that after a year’s worth of anticipation and planning the 14th Annual HR Technology Conference and Exposition is in the record books – literally and figuratively. While I haven’t seen the final attendance figures, I’ve been told that the numbers far exceeded those of the conferences of the past. Showing off it’s international appeal, the event draws people from all over the world, including South Africa, Australia, various points throughout Europe and Latin America. Regardless of where the attendees arrive from they all look to learn about the latest innovations in HR practices and technology from world class practitioners who share their successes (and failures) for others to learn from.

Conference Co-Chair Bill Kutik spends a good portion of the year planning the event to the most minute detail including the brand of coffee served to attendees and the placement of lighting in the room where the general sessions are held, to deliver the best possible experience for the attendees who invest not only the cost of the conference and travel, but their precious time as well. Kudos to the newly married Mr. Kutik and the rest of the conference team for pulling off another successful event.

What makes the HR Technology Conference and Exposition so successful?  See the details below:

Doubling Down on the Location

Moving the conference from Chicago to Las Vegas resulted in some new attendees, enabling many from the west coast to attend a conference they might have otherwise skipped due to the cost or time commitment to travel. Fortunately for those of us in attendance we were treated to something that has been lacking in the previous years in Chicago – a conference center which is directly attached to the conference hotel. While Chicago’s McCormick Place does have a hotel attached, it is not the official conference hotel. The Mandalay Bay offered conference attendees top notch accommodations, dining options galore, numerous entertainment options, and of course the gaming action that Las Vegas is known for. The location offered something for everyone even if an attendee didn’t gamble or drink.

Being Dealt a Full House

With a agenda filled with some of the best and brightest in the business its no surprise that attendance was through the roof with general sessions being completely packed – standing room only.  Conference attendee traffic on the floor of the exhibit hall was quite heavy with many vendors I spoke with reporting high levels of engagement with prospective customers.  While some vendors dug deep into their bag of tricks to attract people to their booth by way of dancing, celebrity impersonators, and flashing toys, many choose to instead go back to the basics and engage in dialogue absent the gimmicks.  My friend Dwayne Lay posted his HR Tech 2011 swag video here dishing on all the cool giveaways.

Winning the Jackpot

Two of my favorite events on the HR conference calendar came together this year, resulting in a two for one experience for a number of attendees. While the HR Technology Conference was the big draw, a much less known event, HRevolution was also incorporated into the overall festivities this year. For those of you not familiar with HRevolution, I would strongly encourage you to check it out next time. An unconference is a loosely structured conference model absent powerpoint presentations, one-way communications, and the formality typically found in many conferences.  Pairing this event with the HR Technology Conference offered attendees the best of both worlds.

Counting Cards

For those who share a passion for technology like I do the conference offered a chance to see more new products from vendors.  With Mobile and Social being the two largest themes of the show few vendors were without a story to tell on these topics.  While the mobile applications look cool, one has to ask whether it makes sense to build the same functionality into a new channel or if the use of that new channel should result in a completely different focus on how the software should/could be used.  Just because something can be done on a mobile device doesn’t mean its the most appropriate way to get something done.

By paying close attention to the various capabilities available in the market from the numerous vendors, attendees have the potential to shift the odds in their favor.  Unlike at the blackjack tables, you will not get tossed out for having an unfair advantage, it simply means you’ve successfully managed to pick and choose the best tools available.

Busting Out

While the conference was largely a very positive event, I wanted to highlight some of the ways in which the conference can be improved moving forward:

  • High-speed WiFi (emphasis on high-speed) – first and foremost thanks to ADP for serving as the sponsor of the WiFi service for HR Tech.  While it was a great gesture, unfortunately the demand for internet service far exceeded available supply.  The result was internet connections which reminded me of my 14.4 kbps modem from 1993.  Next year having not only high speed but greater bandwidth is a must have.
  • Closer Meeting Rooms – I’m not how many people experienced the challenge of having to leave the exposition show floor to head to a suite for meetings but for those who did you know what I’m talking about.  With limited meeting rooms directly adjacent to the expo hall vendors were forced to secure suites in the hotel towers for meeting rooms.  The long walk between the hotel elevator tower and the expo hall was just a hit under a 3/4 of a mile.  Having three or four meetings in the towers meant quite a few miles logged between the two locations.  Ideally the exposition hall would have “suites” available directly from the show floor where vendors could quickly escort prospects for more in-depth discussions.
  • More Casual Food Options – While the dining options at Mandalay Bay were terrific (the hamburger at Fleur is amazing), there is a lack of more casual dining options where attendees can grab a less formal (and less expensive) meal.  For attendees on a budget the best options were either hitting up a vendor party for free food or venturing over to other hotels in search of more reasonable dining options.


This was the 7th year that I’ve attended the HR Technology Conference, and continue to be impressed with how well Bill Kutik and the LRP team manage to pull it off.  I’m looking forward to next year back in Chicago.





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