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InfluenceHR: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Last week, our CEO and I went to InfluenceHR in San Francisco. Michael participated in a panel on “How Emerging Companies and Products Are Disrupting the HCM Sales and Marketing Status Quo”, and I attended courtesy of Influitive, the advocate marketing experts (and many thanks to them!). There’s already been an excellent recap posted, so we’ll just talk about our experience there and the good, the bad, and the ugly.

 The Good

Overall, we really enjoyed the conference. There were a ton of smart people in the room, and everyone shared experience and knowledge transparently enough that we could all learn from each other. Three of the best things were:

  1. The Networking. We got to know people from different parts of the space and the challenges that we all face in staffing our growth (sales and marketing) teams in order to sell into the HR space. We met a few potential partners and hope for a lot of great chats over coffee to come out of this.
  2. The Knowledge. Many of the panels, especially “Unlocking the Secrets of the HR Buyer”, had speakers who humorously and graciously shared their knowledge. Best of all, they shared it in a way that we could take it back to our offices and apply it to our teams.
  3. The Commercial for Influitive. You’d think that having a sponsoring vendor come up in a ton of different panels wouldn’t be to the good, but Advocate Marketing is proving really valuable in the HR space. Seeing how different companies use it and how sales and reference processes are changing was really fascinating. (Note: We are an Influitive customer, and I’m somewhat of a rabid fan :)).

The Bad

While our experience was good overall, there were definitely some parts of the conference that were sub-optimal:

  1. Blindingly Obvious Information. Oh, you mean we should measure our marketing efforts and tie them to strategy and ROI? You don’t say! And your product does that? Shocking! But seriously, we already know that spreadsheets suck for marketing budgets and we should look at strategy/ROI. In-depth case studies and more insights would have been more useful. That said, the presentations with blindingly obvious information did almost get there, which is more than many conferences can say. Hopefully we get a bit more “meat” at the next conference.
  2. Niche Presentations. I’m sure that the panel on “Who Is the Enterprise Learning Buyer in 2014?” was super-useful for the people in the room who sell to the learning buyer, but that was far less than half the room. It was definitely a brilliant piece of research by The Starr Conspiracy Intelligence Unit (TSCIU), but was so niche that the rest of us largely zoned out during the panel. I actually felt bad for the speakers at one point! I’m looking forward to future research from TSCIU, but I hope that anything presented at a single-track conference will be more applicable to the general audience in the future.
  3. Networking Time. This is probably personal preference, but longer breaks would have been awesome. I didn’t get nearly enough time to talk to the smart people in the room! I don’t think this is a bad problem to have, and the longer format of their next conference will probably address this.

The Ugly

Only one thing about the conference could be called out as ugly, though: There were 15 speakers. ONE was a woman.

This conference was for marketing and selling to HR buyers. HR is largely women. Marketing is about 50/50, and women are certainly well-represented in sales. Out of 15 speakers they could only find one woman? Come on, people – you’re not even trying. The audience looked 30-40% female; the speakers should at least reflect that (rather than 7%).

And that one woman speaker (the completely fabulous Elaine Orler) had the presentation that I brought back to my sales team – it had immediately applicable information about HR buyers.

For the next conference, I’m expecting more female speakers. If tech speakers and conferences can pledge to do better, InfluenceHR can blow the predominantly male speaker trend out of the water. Let’s get those brilliant women on stage!

* * *

Overall, though, InfluenceHR is a brilliant conference for those of us in the industry. The next one is in Las Vegas in October (right before HR Tech) – we hope to see you there!

Jenn Steele

Head of Growth at RecruitLoop. Previously at Amazon & HubSpot. Passionate about growing humans and companies, working out, and wine. Also blogs on leadership at leadinggeeks.net. Follow her @jennsteele.

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