Presence in a Crowded HR Market

It was lunchtime at last week’s HR Technology Conference and Exposition in Chicago, and hundreds of HR professionals were enjoying their lunch and a Broadway show.

Well, maybe it wasn’t a true musical, but speaker Belle Halpern of The Ariel Group used a fascinating approach to convey her message of how good leadership requires strong presence. An accomplished singer in her spare time, she demonstrated her talents by interspersing her remarks with musical interludes – at times, she contrasted performances done with a monotone against other numbers sung with booming emotion. The bottom line was that HR professionals determine the level of energy they bring to the corporate table. Every individual creates their own unique presence, she argued, and how we present ourselves is crucial to pulling it off.

In a similar vein, presence was equally important to the 200-plus HR vendors and suppliers in the Exposition Hall, trying to capture the attention of over 1,200 conference attendees. HRmarketer was part of this crowd for the first time, with the debut of our new tradeshow booth (memo to selves: next time bring candy). We also contributed to the caffeine levels of the vendor community by sponsoring the exhibitors’ lounge.

It was fascinating to watch the different styles of expo messaging in action, with colorful booths all competing to attract attendees’ eyeballs. And yet, there was a certain sameness to the marketing-speak that pervaded backdrops, brochures and other collateral materials. A number of visitors to the booth noted that a “me-too” atmosphere filled the room. A relative handful of exhibitors successfully rose above the noise with booths that visually stood apart and well-articulated, jargon-free messages that reached out to HR executives’ needs and challenges.

With so much interaction by phone and e-mail in today’s business world, the best part about attending a show is the opportunity to meet clients in a face-to-face setting. The icing on the cake was spending a few minutes sharing ideas and forecasting the “next big thing” with notables like Lou Adler and college recruiting expert Steven Rothberg.

It’s clear that personal relationships and networking are still as valuable as any slick marketing campaign. It’s also clear that identifying your own unique presence is crucial to successfully marketing your services in today’s crowded HR marketplace. It’s up to each of us to elevate the energy in the room...and once we take the time to identify what makes our story unique, it’s going to be much easier to cut through the noise.