Dude, Where’s My Booth? (Massaging brands and leads at the 10th Annual HR Technology Conference & Expo)

The HRmarketer.com ViTaL Marketing/PR team is flying home from the 10th annual HR Technology Conference & Expo, and boy are our arms, legs and heads tired. But our spirits are high! It was a great show!

Things didn’t start so well for us, though. When we went to set up on Tuesday afternoon, our booth was gone. Nowhere to be found. Vanished into thin smoke-filled air. (Many of the expo set-up crew were chain smoking. Couldn’t believe it.) The shipping company blamed the onsite logistics company – blah, blah, blah. I won’t mention the expo shipping or onsite logistics companies, but for those of you who go to trade shows regularly including HR Tech, you know who.

About 15 minutes before the expo started on Wednesday our booth was found – in another vendor’s already set up booth. Thankfully the vendor notified us immediately and all was well in the universe, no thanks to the folks responsible for finding it in the first place. (Unfortunately the universe is unwell yet again; one of our boxes to be shipped back is now missing. Found that out 20 minutes before our flight home.)

Right from the get-go on Wednesday, October 11, the expo was packed. I don’t have any specific attendee numbers yet, but the buzz was that it was one of the highest yet – mostly HR and Talent Management VPs and Directors and C-level management from larger corporations. Add a dash of private equity investment folk, VCs and angel investors – not to mention non-exhibiting vendors capturing competitive intel – and you’ve got the makings of an lucrative expo.

The usual mix of carnival atmosphere and “my booth is bigger than your booth” shenanigans abounded for many of the larger vendors. Taleo had an interesting draw: Cirque du Soleil-esque scantily clad acrobatic shows (large crowds with mouths agape). Vurv had a sweet spread (two actually). Workday gave away cool “rock show” t-shirts (and I heard Dave Duffield blew everyone away at the new “technology shootout” format). HR Executive again offered “your smiling face on an HRE cover” souvenirs. (Don’t really get that appeal, but then again my wife and I had our faces inserted into Princess Leia and Han Solo at Disneyland years ago. I should just hush up). And of course the thousands of tchotchkes and drawings and giveaways offered by the over 230 vendors (over half of which have used HRmarketer.com services successfully since 2002).

Most HRmarketer members who exhibited this year seemed to be pleased with the traffic and the number of decision makers stopping by their booths, even though immediate return on trade show exhibiting is usually a mixed bag of tricks and treats.

(Accordingly to our latest HR supplier marketing and PR research report due out this month, 65% of suppliers continue to view trade show participation as a popular lead generating activity, as it remains the only and best way to meet prospects face-to-face. This is particularly the case for larger suppliers who report attending more events and attributing more leads to exhibiting than smaller suppliers.)

The HR Tech attendees come with a mission: they know what they needed for their organizations; they just need to find the right vendor to fill that need. Unlike SHRM, HR Tech attendees first priority wasn’t to fill their goodie bags full of crap (no offense to all you fine suppliers; some of that crap is cool, like HRmarketer hats and t-shirts!). I did notice many attendees were still filling up though, especially during the last 30 minutes of the expo. I know – Christmas is only 75 expo shopping days away.

Brief side note: I attended the Talent Management session the morning of the first day. Heads of HR state at Ameriprise, Leo Burnett, Aramark, Luxottica and Yahoo answered a series of questions about their integrated talent management strategy. You can argue the explicit bastardization and over-marketing of the term “talent management” all you want, but it’s hear to stay (for now anyway). From a vendor perspective one thing was exceptionally clear from these TM leaders: don’t just help us improve HR processes; help us improve our organization’s business strategy and bottom line as they relate to the impact of our most prized asset – our talent.

Know your buyer. Know your buyer. Know your buyer.

The exhibitor lounge (which HRmarketer sponsored again this year complete with refreshments and chair massages for you hard-working suppliers) buzzed with vendor/prospect meetings throughout both expo days. Even when sessions were running, there were deals being wheeled and vendor partnerships being explored on the floor and off. Our chair massage partner, Stress Less On-site Chair Massage, gave over 150 massages in two days! Talk about massaging a brand for leads…

We’d like to give a special “shout out” to HRmarketer members ADP, Aruspex, Enwisen, myStaffingPro, nowHIRE and Peopleclick for formally announcing new products at the show.

And a special congratulations to HRmarketer members SkillSurvey, Employee Continuum, Halogen Software, Nobscot Corp. and Peopleclick for winning 5 of the 10 coveted top HR products of 2007, while Ninth House and AthenaOnline won 2 of the 3 coveted top training products of 2007.

Thanks to all the HRmarketer members we visited with and who came by our booth. You’re the best!

Posted by Kevin Grossman

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