What Keeps Senior Level HR Professionals Away From Industry Conferences?


This year, I’ll be attending my 5th SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition June 16 – 19, 2013, which will be held in the beautiful windy city of Chicago.

It’s the BIG show. Picture 10,000 – 15,000+ HR and industry professionals all gathered in one place to get their learn on, to network and to shop till they drop in the Expo Hall for free squeezy balls, pens and drawings for iPads – and maybe a new product or vendor while they’re at it.

I find the conference, the people and the content incredibly valuable each year. But if it’s such a great event, why do senior level professionals make up such a small percentage of attendees at the annual conference – or equivalent industry events?

Check out the attendee breakdown from the 2012 SHRM Annual Conference below. Only 12% of attendees were from the top of the profession. Go to a local SHRM chapter meeting and this group is even less likely to be in attendance.

I’m glad to see that HR professionals at all levels attend the conference and keep coming back year after year.

So why don’t the senior level pros consider it a “must attend” event? What’s missing for them?

I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts in the Comments section.

Let’s talk about how we can connect with the upper levels of HR in a meaningful way!

SHRM13 Attendees

I’ll be speaking at the 2013 SHRM Annual Conference this year for the second year in a row – twice! I consider a huge honor!

If you’ll be there (register here), I’d love for you to join me!

MEGA SESSION: The Future of HR: Four Keys For Creating Competitive Advantage Through Innovative People Strategies (1.25 Strategic HRCI credits)

MEGA SESSION: Talent Shortages & Skills Gaps: Equip Your Organization For New Battlefronts In The War For Talent (1.25 General HRCI credits)


Unbridled Talent LLC is a consulting and advisory firm providing services to clients in the areas of recruiting & human resources strategy, employment branding and leadership/career development. We offer keynotes, workshops and training that inspire and teach business leaders to be more effective in their careers and as leaders of their organization’s most valuable resource – people. Contact us to schedule an event or to discuss our strategic consulting and advisory services.

President & Chief Talent Strategist

Jennifer McClure is a Keynote Speaker, Talent Strategies Expert and Executive Coach who works with clients and companies in the areas of leadership development, communication and talent strategy. Jennifer McClure offers keynotes, workshops and training that inspire and empower business leaders to be more effective in their careers and as leaders of their organization’s most valuable resource – people.

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6 thoughts on “What Keeps Senior Level HR Professionals Away From Industry Conferences?

  1. The cynic in me suspects senior leaders use conferences as a substitute for true development of their people. Don’t have time to coach and mentor but your mid-level folks yearn for growth? Send them to a conference! It’s not that conferences can’t be a part if development, but leaders fail to follow up and it becomes just an event that doesn’t result in any changed behavior. And thus the perception is that conferences are a “waste of time”.

    Leaders should approach conferences as a part of their strategic initiatives – we all say we should stay current on best practices. Here’s our chance! It requires selection of the right conference at the right time with a goal in mind.

  2. I think it’s a shame that Sr. HR people shy away from any HR opportunity/conference. As an Executive myself, I find them to be amazing !!

    I don’t attend these events because of my position. I attend them because I dig HR. Too many Sr. HR pros get stuck in a mythical cloud and forget that they were not always Sr. HR people.

    Be with everyone. You can learn from folks at all levels !!!

    • Too many senior level HR pros are missing out on the opportunity to meet people at conferences like you Steve! 🙂

      While all of the sessions at large conferences may not be of interest to a senior leader, there are definitely some learning opportunities for them there. And why not take the attitude of expanding your network at a conference – not just with possible vendors, but with other HR professionals?

      IMHO – If any attendee approaches a conference with an attitude of learning and connecting, they’re bound to come away with a positive experience.

  3. When recently unemployed, in every interview (because I believe I was interviewing them) I asked for not only the support of conference attendance, but also their strategy in my future development. Conferences are a piece of the pie, granted, but arguably the best way to gain current HR information, HR trends, and HR recharge (simultaneously). I’ll let you guess which employer I chose!

    • That’s a great strategy Wendy! I like that you’re ensuring that your expectations and your employer’s would be in line with each other. You’re taking charge of your career and I think most employers (particularly the good ones) will appreciate that.

      Good luck with selecting the right opportunity for you!

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