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The Top 5 Exhibits that Made me Stop and Pause — SHRM 2008


Shiny bottles full of liquid of every hue as far as the eye can see. Men and women from all corners of the country clutching sweating bottles of Bud Light and juggling wine glasses as they continuously dodge oncoming traffic.

This is…a national human resources conference??! Okay, I’ll admit I was a bit jealous of the attendees, as Sunday was quite an impressive party, with open bars aplenty, heaping plates of food, the introduction of schwag, schwag, and more schwag, caged dancers…

Kidding about that last one. Just making sure you’re still with me. Anyway, while working the CareerBuilder booth over the past few days, I managed to sneak out and explore the exhibit floor a bit beyond the “party” exterior. And the more I saw, the more I was surprised by what I saw. Many exhibits and types of services showcased initially struck me as disconnected from the purpose of the conference, but as I eventually completed my corner-to-corner tour of the exhibit floor, I realized that all of the pieces nicely fit together into the wide world of not only human resources, but of recruiting as a whole. And a few stuck out in my head, for various reasons. So, I’ve compiled a list of them below.

Patrick Dempsey - Can't Buy Me LoveBonus Tip: As a Sunday attendee, it’s best to avoid the combination of white attire and red wine. Either/or is fine – just don’t mix the two or you may experience a “Can’t Buy Me Love” moment (in the 1987 classic, Cindy, the main character, spills wine on her mother’s white suede dress. Chaos ensues, which leads to love and happy endings. Ta-da!) Pictured at left: “Ronald Miller,” aka a young Patrick Dempsey.


Top 5 Exhibits of SHRM 2008 that Made Me Stop and Pause:

1) The Honeybaked Ham Company. They acknowledged that yes, many people wondered what they were doing there as they approached the delicious-smelling booth. Ham? HR? But Lynn and Tim were not only friendly and gracious about my co-worker Jay eating way too many steak samples (okay, I might have had a few as well), but they took the time to explain how their corporate incentive programs fit into workplace needs. As Lynn also eloquently explained, food brings people together, and sending a gift like a ham to an employee who has lost a loved one is something that is appreciated and that the entire family can use together.

2) Lee National Denim Day. Since its inception in 1996, Lee Jeans’s National Denim Day program has raised over $70 million for breast cancer. The program is simple: for one day (this year it’s October 3, 2008), employees are allowed to go casual in jeans for the exchange of a $5 donation to go toward fighting breast cancer. Simple? Yes. Effective? I would say so (and who doesn’t love wearing jeans?) Cool idea? For sure. Non-profit and volunteering opportunities are also great morale boosters for employees and give them something meaningful beyond their jobs – or rather, as an extension of their jobs – to come together for and be proud of.

3) See’s Candies and V Chocolates. I apologize if I am leaving other chocolate company exhibitors out, but these were the two that I visited. Why am I including them on the list? If you haven’t picked up from my previous posts, I love to eat. And I really love chocolate. The sight of these booths was a welcome treat, as they were giving away free samples! V Chocolates had particularly pretty packaging, and See’s Candies was very generous about their samples. Mmm. Chocolate brings nations (and SHRM conference attendees) together.

4) I would be amiss not to mention The Fruitguys. Erin Giordano, marketing manager at The Fruitguys, talked to me about the benefits of not only having fruit in the office, but also the positive effects on productivity and morale and the program element of what they do. Erin stressed that their program is multi-faceted; in addition to fruit, of course, they offer a Walking Club and Stair Climb Program, free pedometers to a company’s employees, wellness education literature, and more. Nutrition with a mission, you might say.

Editor’s Note: I should have named this blog entry “Top Places to Visit if You Miss Lunch.”

5) I passed by the International Color Code Association’s booth – or rather, stumbled upon it, and I was amazed at the little line of people that had formed behind the booth’s computer screens. The ICCA was offering a free color code personality test, to learn more about your “color” and what impact that has on your leadership style and your relationships. The line was not moving despite the five-minute test-time promise, so I skirted it and was quickly distracted by the colored buttons they were giving away nearby. I picked out a yellow one (“Without me, it’s just AWESO”) and checked out the others, like “Shiny Objects Distract Me” (guilty), “Reds Are Motivated by Power,” etc. Buttons are fun. Maybe next time I’ll have time to take the color test.

Other tilt-my-head-in-wonder booths of note:

SHRM Exhibits6) Cabela’s and Lands’ End. My first thought about Cabela’s was, “my dad would love this.” My first thought about Lands’ End was, “my mom would love this.” But I then saw that they both offer corporate apparel. I’m not sure if my parents are aware of this, but I will definitely be letting them know.

7) Northwest Territorial Mint. They’re a custom minting company that manufactures items like medallions and knives for the U.S. military. What are they doing at SHRM? I learned that they also manufacture recognition awards for companies and organizations (as well as governments and individuals). A-ha!

8 ) Foot Solutions - The woman at their booth explained to me that their trained footwear consultants actually come out to your business to consult with your employees about their particular foot issues and offer customized solutions. Their brochure tells me that “90 percent of all people wear improperly fitted shoes.” I read this fun fact as my feet were practically screaming at me. Three days of walking and standing around in heels was taking its toll.

9) Free toothpaste and toothbrush samples from Delta Dental. Kensington International, Inc. was giving away a free blue spruce branch to take home and plant. Nice touches.

10) Winner of most unique schwag? Saudi Aramco (an oil company) who was giving away Arabic music CDs. So I picked up some tunes on my way back to our booth (but not before one last quick chocolate detour).
You can access the full list of exhibitors through SHRM’s annual conference page.

Coming up: What Was Hot, What Was Not: SHRM 2008 Reactions

Amy K. McDonnell

About Amy K. McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the editorial manager on the content services team and has been with both CareerBuilder and the city of Chicago for nearly a decade. She writes on a range of recruitment topics on The Hiring Site, striving to bring a dose of clarity and humor to sometimes complicated issues around employee attraction, engagement and retention. When she's not working, Amy spends as much time as possible reading, pretending to be a chef, writing short stories, eating Nutella out of the jar, waiting for CTA buses and trains, going to see her favorite bands live, and spending time with people who inspire and challenge her.

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