What Came First: The HR Lady or the Swag?


I am breaking into my regularly scheduled posts, this week, because I am a mad woman. My husband went to a conference and didn’t bring home any swag.

I. Know.

To be fair, he is an adult. And a man. And he has a real job with real problems to solve.

But I don’t get it. He went to a conference, spent the entire time on the expo floor, and he had real questions for real companies.

What’s that like?

Apparently the world works differently when you attend a conference where 80% of the attendees are male and they do science and medicine for a living. I wanted to learn more about the world of real conference attendees so I asked some pointed questions.

Here is my interpretation of his answers.

What was the best swag at the show?

I was informed that it’s not a show. It’s a scientific conference with an expo floor. And there wasn’t much swag. Maybe a thumb drive. Maybe some post-it notes.

[Side note: It’s not a show? What? He lies. The first thing Bill Kutik ever taught me is that it’s all a show. Even when it’s HR, it’s Hollywood.]

Any booth babes? Crazy chicks in costume? Belly dancers?

Nope. Mostly dudes. Standing around. Talking science. Maybe golf.

Anyone have a margarita machine? Give out cookies? Did anyone offer you a stuffed animal?

None of that happened — but there were a bunch of guys in matching shirts at one booth. For the most part, though, everyone was smart casual. Slacks. Blazers. White guy garb. There were some brochures.

What was the #hashtag?

No hashtag — and I got an over-the-top eye roll when I asked.

Turns out that the HR conference experience — with tweeting and swag and bad fashion — isn’t a universal experience.

I wonder why some industries promote crazy booths with performance artists + alcohol while other conferences are normal and treat attendees like adults.

If HR vendors didn’t have parties and give out crazy swag, would HR women miss it? If you didn’t have access to a margarita machine at a conference, would you still chat up the vendor who is selling comprehensive talent management consulting services?

I’m not so sure I would.

I am not good at math, but I need two parts margarita and one part free tote bag to make the conference experience worth it.

That makes me an HR lady, I suppose.

There has to be something for me in the experience of attending a conference beyond the conference itself or I’m not going. I’ll take pens, Ghirardelli chocolate squares, or free stuffed animals — but I prefer frozen margaritas.

Thanks for asking.

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