Saturday, November 22, 2008

ERE Conference Observations; or, Bringing Sharky Back

I was so fortunate to attend the ERE Conference in Hollywood Florida this year. I try to attend the West Coast conference when I can (I didn't make it in 2008, but was there in 2007; I will be there in 2009). This time I got to meet lots of new folks and I ran into many old friends. I made some observations while there, and have been promising to share for over a month. Here goes:
  1. I am going to have to flip-flop on the issue of business cards. They are still essential. I tried going without them this time, encouraging people to connect with me via LinkedIn or Twitter. A few did. But I can't help feeling that I missed some great connections because I didn't have a card to exchange. Plus, I felt awkward and rude when nice people offered me a business card and I had nothing to give in return. Like opting out of the office holiday gift exchange but being invited to the potluck anyway. One day, I'm convinced, our cell phones will make business cards obsolete. Until then, I think I will be diligent about having them on hand.
  2. Prior to these events, it's helpful to make a networking plan. If there are folks you want to connect with, or products you want to review make sure you note in advance. I got lucky this time, and just happened to have a wonderful dinner with Maren Hogan (a brilliant and fascinating midwesterner who writes the blog Marenated) and Jason Davis (aka Slouch, creator of We had a lively, fun discussion about recruiting and life in general. I have two new friends. Online networking is great, but in person is waaaaay better. Plus, there is wine.
  3. Most of the time I tweeted the experience, as did several others. Combined, these tweets provide a good recap of the highlights. I met the CEO of Talentspring, Bryan Starbuck, who remarked on my tweets in a vlog on Cheezhead's site.
  4. Speaking of Bryan Starbuck, he is a model vendor! I'm not endorsing his product (I have yet to take it for a test drive), but he impressed me as a vendor who really wants to solve recruiting problems. First, he was there in all of the sessions, taking notes and learning all he could about sharkicity. Second, he had insightful questions. Third, he had insightful answers. We talked at length about building candidate search algorithms. Now, this shark knows very little about math, but I trust that Bryan (ex principle product developer at Microsoft) knows his stuff. Combined with knowledge of how recruiters actually work, and what we actually need in a candidate database, he and his team will likely build a great product. Can't wait to see. (His team is pretty cool too -- I first met them at a college recruiting event; they were very passionate about their product and had some funny comments about how to make lame recruiting events better).
  5. Lastly, I noticed, or sensed (I'm very sensitive) that recruiters are feeling reluctant, skittish or generally un-sharky. Whether the topic was social media (where, admittedly, I can be a bit strident) or conducting high quality candidate research (as presented in Krista Bradford's excellent session), recruiters seemed tentative and distrustful of anythng new. I hope that's just a phase. This has been a horrible year, I know. But in 2009, let's bring sharky back!

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