Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SHRM Diversity and Inclusion Conference Access Denied

Conference Planners the Game has Changed: Get on Board or get off the Sinking Ship

The theme for this week's
SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel is "Game Changers". This inspired this post as I assert that the game for conference planners is "the conference" itself. You could also include seminars, programs, education, etc. as the game that has changed.

The point is we soon will have 5 generations in the workplace and our newest generation is being referred to as the "always on" generation. In some circles, this "always on" mentality is wholeheartedly embraced and in others, they are not embraced at all. How can one be "always on" when conference centers, generally hotels, BLOCK access to what folks want to be "always on"... The Internet.

This conference is not the first SHRM conference to deny my access to “get on" during the conference. However, SHRM is not the only organization I have attended where this has been a problem.  I can think of my own Chamber of Commerce function where there were all kinds of businesses from all types of industries trying to get on the internet. My second point is it doesn't matter if you’re a conference planner within the HR space; this is probably an issue at other conferences all over the world. If we are going to consider marketing conferences to the "always on" generation we should consider their needs. Not only that, there truly is a real benefit to your organization to promote, drive and encourage live communication from the conference. It can drive future attendance. Just like employers should really rethink their ban of internet access on the job, the same goes for organizations and business who want people to frequent their organization. I can imagine a time when people will choose a lunch location based on free wifi or not. Even if you don't have free wifi, if you ban it then you will lose. I already chose hotels for vacation based on whether or not there is free wifi. If lunch is the next decision, conferences will be right behind.

So, conference planners are most likely saying the hotels charge an arm and leg for it. We have the power to increase demand and negotiate for what we want and our member's need. I know I will have comments that say we tried and it's easier said than done. The point is why these conference centers not cater to what the customer needs. If they start losing business because of it, they will eventually listen.

The game has changed. Participants do not want access blocked. Get on board with this demand or it can have an effect on future attendance. Do you want a sinking ship or to go forward full throttle?  Full throttle is catering to the "always on" generation.

-Donna Rogers, Director ISC SHRM 

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