The Recruitfest! Drive By Shooting

I was one of the lucky 12 who got to share the spotlight and hoopla that was Recruitfest! 2010 last week in Boston. It was all “places everybody…lights…camera…action” and it’s the closest I will ever get to being on Oprah. There has already been some great blogging/vlogging about the event and its content. MonsterThinking is doing a fab job of keeping track of it all, so check it out. Everything that has been said is true: while it’s never been done before, the format has set the bar for conferences to come; the topics, discussion, and debate have already created a buzz in our profession; Eric Winegardner is in fact a celebrity and has a career in daytime television if he wants it.

I purposely took a few days to craft my Recruitfest! Reflections because I didn’t want the afterglow from the event to cloud my judgment. Now that it’s worn off, I am once again prepared to play the contrarian. Let me start by saying I am not in the business of sponsoring, organizing, facilitating, or even presenting at conferences. I’ve attended my fair share and presented at a few, but that by no means makes me an expert. In some ways, a good conference is like a good cliffhanger…it leaves you wanting more and, therefore, forces you to attach yourself to it (and to pony up next year’s fee). That attachment is built through the swankiness of the venue, the quality of the entertainment, the pedigree of the attendees, the fullness of the bar, how well the sponsors shower us with swag…and yes, the quality of the presenters and their content. Recruitfest! posted up superb marks toward all of these measures…for sure. But here’s the deal: when it comes to takeaways, Recruitfest! 2010 left us with few that were tangible enough to act on in any reasonable amount of time. Sure, it sparked great dialog and many of you will be instrumental in perpetuating it. But the dialog was more about the issues and less about the solutions. Rather than diving deep on a few important issues and knocking them down, we ended up just skimming the surface on many interesting issues and knocking them around. Few vs. Many. Important vs. Interesting. Down vs. Around. We covered 12 distinct topics over 9 hours. That’s great for attracting a large diverse audience, but it’s not terribly effective in giving the attendees something to propagate in their organizations. Just when the dialog got juicy, just when the audience started to queue up for questions or comments, and just when we started discussing solutions, we cut to a commercial break. I know I felt frustrated by that and wonder whether you did too.

I get it: conferences are about drawing awareness, energizing a cause, and building a community. Recruitfest! did that better than any conference I’ve ever been a part of. The technology and format unveiled by Monster and RecruitingBlogs, though,  give us a real opportunity to make conferences a lasting event and not just a drive-by shooting. I hope we start seeing this format applied to a series of interconnected events and discussions around a single meaty topic which builds over time. Start with defining the problem, yes, but don’t stop until solutions abound. We don’t have to cram it down every one’s throats anymore – it no longer has to be about appeasing the masses; we can send it out and share it in smaller doses, connect the dots from one to the next, and truly collaborate toward meaningful and actionable takeaways.

I like to bitch. That’s my gig. But this is less of a bitch and more of a suggestion for what to bring to the lab next time [insert mad scientist cackle]. I am thrilled to have been a part of this event, the energy it has created, and the tremendous contribution it has made to our industry. Peace.

Photo Credit: Mayor of Concord

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  • John Jorgensen

    Wow, that guy in the passenger seat has a resemblence to William Tincup.

  • http://recruiter.com Miles Jennings

    Charlie, I’m so glad you could be a part of RecruitFest! – thanks for participating. This post raises some very good points… RecruitFest! left all of us really happy and excited and interested, but if that was it, it would be very much inadequate. That’s where the ongoing dialog comes in (facilitated by the videos and social network.) What we want to have happen is an ongoing debate and conversation about the topics that were raised at the conference. Hopefully all of that content with the addition of dialog post-conference will create some real concrete takeaways.
    Miles Jennings´s last [type] ..Our Recruiter Network is Getting a Makeover

  • Tom Bolt

    I love the “drive by shooting” analogy about conferences in general but would offer another: Most are either a full course meal that leaves you wanting more or a buffet where you are tempted to sample a little of everything before the table is cleared. If there is only one takeaway from Recruitfest this year it is that the bar has now been raised on how to make such an event a meaningful and lasting memory. I am still in awe of all the talent in that room, but the after-conference dialog from the presenters and participants alike through blogs and other social media has shown that the conversation is ongoing. I feel extremely fortunate to have been there live to experience the “between course” snacks and the week-long dessert cart that is still following me around. I’m not full yet!

  • http://recruitingunblog.wordpress.com/ @BillBoorman

    Charlie,
    Solutions don’t come from conferences, and i’m glad you dropped the “un” bit. This was conference TV. I loved it as a viewer and even got to take part via the phone in.
    The format was fantastic. The conversation of the main issue “candidate experience”, was much the same as the last #Recruitfest. Conferences comment on markets, make sugestions but don’t solve problems.
    The solution to the “candidate experience” bit is very simple. You don’t need a conference speaker with a monster budget to tell you that it might be nice to acknowledge a resume and do somthing about it. in fact, you just gave me an idea for a blog post. i’m off to write it now!
    My best outcome from #recruitfest, a series of recruitingblogs/Monster TV. Same technical format, 2 hour show. Weekly, from a different town. invited guests and studio audience talking about one recruiter issue a week.
    If you get 3000+ tuning in, that would be somthing to start the conversation, highlight best practice and maybe solve a problem or two!
    Bill
    @BillBoorman´s last [type] ..Just how “social” is Bullhorn Reach SocialRecruiting

  • Pingback: We don’t need #Recruitfest « Norton Folgate: The Recruiting Unblog

  • http://www.hardestyglobal.com Charlie

    @jkjhr leave it to you to connect the dots amongst the HR SM community…i do in fact see the resemblance

    @miles i can’t thank u guys enough for even thinking i might add something to the event. it was a thrill and you guys need to be commended for having the vision and the fortitude to pull it off. a thought: why don’t you hold the presenters (and audience) to start offering solutions based blog posts at recruitingblogs.com – solutions that are clearly linked to the conference’s content. happy to help on that front!

    @tom – it was great seeing you at the conference. i love your buffet vs. full course analogy. to me, this conference was kind of like a chinese meal – left me full for about 4 hours and then i got hungry again. but, my appetite is hard to satisfy!

    @bill – doesn’t surprise me in the least that this struck a chord with you. love your follow-up blog post (http://recruitingunblog.wordpress.com/2010/10/16/we-dont-need-recruitfest/) once again, conferences don’t fix problems. people fix problems. more interactive dialog, pragmatic based solutions, and smart/thoughtful people in this profession is all we really need. Thanks!