As anyone who has attended AHRI’s national convention in the past can tell you, having the opportunity to reflect on your profession, learn about the latest ideas in HR from inspiring speakers and network with fellow professionals is immensely rewarding. Not to mention the chance to shake a leg on the dance floor during the evening festivities!
What are the benefits to be accrued by sending other employees on conferences and conventions aligned to their jobs? Let’s not pussyfoot around – these events are expensive and should be viewed as a long-term investment. But are they worth the cost of a ticket and expenses and, if so, how can you justify that to the boss?
There’s no doubt that the conference industry has boomed in the past few years. No city worth its salt lacks an architecturally self-conscious convention centre in its portfolio of attractions. And the knock-on effect of filling up the city hotel rooms plays a crucial part in any local economy.
In a recent conversation with Mathew Paine, head of HR at Sydney’s newly opened International Convention Centre in Darling Harbour, which is hosting this year’s AHRI national convention, he said that the major spaces at the venue are already booked a year ahead.
Interestingly, the popularity of conventions has increased at the same pace as the internet, and that’s not a coincidence. As people became more connected digitally (in theory reducing the need for face-to-face meetings), the value they place on meeting others in person has risen.
Michael Klowden, CEO of the US think-tank, the Milken Institute, put a finger on why he thinks this is happening.
“Because of the incredible spread of information that‘s circulating around the world, people are better informed, in general, about what’s going on away from their own narrow fields. And if they’re not better informed, they want to be. There’s a sense of the unsettled nature of the world and a feeling of necessity about getting together to discuss solutions.”
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, conventions and events are expected to expand in the US by 44% from 2010 to 2020, far beyond the average projected growth of other industries.
In Australia, the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux (AACB), reports that: “More than 360 international business events will be held through until September 2023.
The association’s CEO Andrew Hiebl says: “More than 190,000 global experts, thought leaders and influencers will travel from overseas to attend these business events, with total delegate expenditure expected to top $750 million.
“Our analysis found one in four business events attracted to Australia by the AACB’s members are in the health sector, while one in five business events attracted to Australia are in the professional, scientific and technical services sector.”
Business Events Australia, dedicated to promoting Australia internationally as a business events destination, reports bid wins for major conventions as you would for a city that had just been awarded the Olympics.
While it’s tempting to view these events as a bit of a gravy train for speakers and attendees alike, anecdotal evidence suggests that for those who go, the benefits both individually and to the organisations they work for, often outweigh the cost.
For a start, conferences and conventions offer a uniquely immersive learning experience. While a great deal of information useful to a profession can be found on the web, it’s often difficult to actually find the quality content that is engaging and/or meaningful.
Conference speakers are chosen not just for their expertise but for their ability to deliver memorable presentations that are entertaining as well as informative. What’s more, there are often breakout workshops tied to the main speeches where practitioners can put ideas to the test, debate and share best practice.
Importantly, what has been learnt at conference needs to come back into the business and be shared among teams. Before anyone attends a conference, there should be formal expectations that the conference attendees will present their findings on their return to the rest of the office. The aim is to make the whole business smarter, not just the individual.
Conventional wisdom: it’s good for attracting top talent
1. The convention as carrot.
After pay, most people are attracted to a company because of the opportunities it provides for professional development. US talent acquisition software business iCIMS recommends that organisations ensure such opportunities as attending appropriate conventions are highlighted as part of the business branding, on social media pages and in other candidate communications.
2. Hanging on to top talent.
“One of the top reasons that employees leave their current employer is a lack of career mobility in the organisation. Young top talent, in particular, is looking for upward mobility, skill training or a clearly defined career path with their impact job,” says Jennifer Carpenter on the iCIMS site. “If your organisation doesn’t have a formal career growth plan or internal professional development opportunities, conferences are a great alternative. Encouraging your employees to go to conferences signals you care about their development.”
Join your HR peers at the biggest HR event of 2017 – the AHRI National Convention and Exhibition 2017 at the new International ConventionCentre Sydney on 21 – 23 August 2017.