A Day in the Life of a SHRM Convention Volunteer
By Doyle Olson
- Las Vegas, Nevada
As a member of the Southern Nevada Human Resources Association (SNHRA), I was given the opportunity to volunteer as an Ambassador at the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) convention held in Las Vegas at the Las Vegas Convention Center. For those of you not familiar with this facility, many adjectives could be used to describe it: mammoth, monstrous, cavernous, a real “city within a city.” It covers three city blocks, which in Las Vegas means well over a square mile.
Never having volunteered at a convention before, I thought it would be interesting and fun to experience this event from an inside perspective. As an Ambassador, I was responsible for seating people who were attending various speaker sessions. The slate of speakers was very impressive, including Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Records and Virgin Airlines; Tony Hsieh, founder and CEO of Zappos.com and whose company was voted on Forbes top 100 “Best Companies to Work For” list, and is the bestselling author of “Delivering Happiness;” and finally Michael J. Fox, the famous actor. Assisting in the seating of approximately 13,000 people gave me a new appreciation of the ushers at a rock concert, in that it was general admission seating. In addition to the seating duties, we were to provide information and directions to the patrons of the convention who were attending one or more of hundreds of sessions on Human Resources topics. With a copy of the layout of the conference in hand, and 90 minutes of training, I hit the floor with my neon orange volunteer shirt and khaki pants (our uniforms).
I volunteered two days, each day starting at 7:15 AM, reporting to the Volunteer Lounge for a pre-shift breakfast. I have never seen so much neon orange in my life as there were close to 400 volunteers. I sympathize with the SHRM supervisors, in that it must have felt like herding a bunch of cattle around to the various areas of the conference. All of the volunteers were very friendly and helpful.
As a volunteer we were granted access to the SHRM Expo, where 650 companies were represented and over 1,300 booths were registered. During our down-times, I had the opportunity to venture into the expo area, and visit some of the companies that were represented. It was soup to nuts in the human resources world – payroll processing, staffing, colleges, background investigation firms, promotional gifts, moving companies, on-line job search companies – the list goes on. As you can imagine, and if you have ever been to a business expo in the past, I ended up with a pretty impressive collection of pens, tote bags, stress balls, foam fingers, t-shirts, can coolers, back scratchers, and so on. I don’t know what I am going to do with all the stuff? Possibly send as gifts to my “I-don’t-know-very-well” third cousins.
I ran into some of my customers at the convention which was very nice. It gave us a chance to interact in a setting other than an office environment. All in all, this was a very rewarding experience, and would recommend that if you get a chance, you too should volunteer or attend a SHRM convention or some other convention that is representative of your industry.