Tiny Conferences – Big Value

One of my favorite things is meeting and talking with interesting people. People who like to play with ideas far outside status-quo-industry-standard-best-practices. Those who like to create and innovate and debate how to make things better.

That’s why I love attending tiny conferences. These are the conferences where the non-conformists and the people who are looking for better ideas come to play. Sometimes, there’s recertification and continuing education credit, but most often there isn’t. The people who attend aren’t there to check a box, but to challenge and push their own thinking and inspire even more creativity and innovation. They are friendly and welcoming and excited to meet anyone wanting to share ideas. The people presenting aren’t self-proclaimed experts and gurus, but are conference attendees and active participants.

Sometimes these small events go by the label “unconference” where even the people hosting it only have a vague idea of what will be discussed, but sometimes they are just small – tiny – conferences. Rather than being overwhelmed by the sheer size of everything, there’s time and space to really talk to people. I’m typing this in Colorado Springs right before an OD conference for people in higher education. The attendee list has less than 35 people on it and this is the third conference I’ve attended this year with less than 100 people.

On top of actually having in-depth conversations with people dealing with the same challenges, cutting edge ideas, access to the speakers, and a welcoming spirit, these conferences are usually very inexpensive. Like $20-150 inexpensive.

There are a lot out there and I’m always excited to discover more, so please share in the comments. My favorites include:

HREvolution. This is the conference that made me want to start going to conferences again. The attendee list is often a who’s who of HR influencers and it turns out all those social media and blogging stars are real people and are as excited to attend the presentations as they are to present. Just go.

TalentNet. Held in Austin in the Spring and Dallas in the Fall, it’s recruiting focused but very worth attending even if you’re not a recruiter. I have been to four now and each time I bring along more and more of my team.

SocialHRCamp. I’ve never been to this one and am really excited about attending one later this month.

DisruptHR. Branded as “The rebellious future of HR” I have not yet had the chance to attend, but just discovered it’s going to be in Dallas in September. I am there.

Actually, as I typed up this list I realized another thing they all have in common is each one is put on by great people. I have met most of the founders at some point or another and they are all real people who want to help others improve and care deeply about moving HR forward.

What are your favorite tiny conferences?

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