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SHRM 2008 exhibitors going above and beyond

Three days. 16,000 people. Millions of free pens. The SHRM 2008 Conference and Exposition is in full swing in Chicago.

Among the speaker highlights so far were opening keynote speaker Sidney Poitier (yes, that Sidney Poitier) on Sunday and author and The Table Group, Inc. president Patrick Lencioni, who spoke this morning. You can get a good rundown of some of the speakers and sessions here, or here. While SHRM’s lined up some impressive presenters this year, the exhibitors, with their increasingly creative displays and fancy giveaways, seem to be just as big a draw for attendees.

Here’s the scene: The layout of the two exhibit halls SHRM takes over in McCormick Place convention center looks like an HR wonderland, where the amount of free swag given away rivals that of the Oscars. In addition to finding everything from moving services to employee motivation programs to personality assessments, you will never be in want of free brochures, bite-sized chocolates, popcorn, buttons, stress balls, bags, coupons or raffle tickets. And then there are the pens. Oh, pens, how people will always love and accept you as long as you have custom logos and are free.

Aside from the usual speaker sessions, knickknack giveaways, and raffle drawings at these booths, some companies really stood out with their offerings. If you stopped by the booth this afternoon, for example, you would’ve been able to get former Chicago Bears player William “The Fridge” Perry’s autograph. Administaff visitors could learn to perfect their golf swings, while Flavia patrons were offered free chair massages and gourmet coffee.

At the O.C. Tanner booth, a colorfull display of giant turning wheels and moving hinges that’s reminiscent of something out of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, visitors can flip a giant switch to make the display stop moving and “see what happens when company appreciation shuts down.” (The result: production shuts down, too. See what they did there?).

Ceridian gives homage to old TV game shows with its Cash Cube drawing booth – visitors can stop by at designated times for a chance to get in the booth and grab the floating cash. Miniature golf is a big theme this year, with RSM McGladdy, Sting and Peopletalk all offering passersby a chance to tap into their inner-Tiger Woods. If you prefer to tap into your inner psyche, you can stop by the Motive booth and take a color code assessment to find out what color – and thus what personality type – you are. Oberon visitors can get in some extra walking when they try out the treadmill desks at this booth. And NASCAR fans can get their photo taken next to racer Carl Edwards’ car. One of the more unusual sites at the conference is the cross-dressing “Onboarding Fairy” at PeopleClick, urging people to register to win free gas.

Below are some photos from’s booth and the Fridge’s autograph session.



Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.

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