Have you been to Rome? No? My goodness, stop what you're doing and work on a budget so you can see Italy before you die.
The Circus Maximus is an ancient chariot racing stadium in Rome. Back in the heyday, people traveled from all over the world to watch bears and elephants fight to the death. And the winner of that battle would fight some poor guy to the death.
Reminds me of attending the SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition, which is coming up in Las Vegas on June 28-July 2, 2015. While nobody is eaten by bears, you are enclosed in a circus-like environment for four days. The action on the exposition floor and in the conference itself is pretty intense.
So how do you get the most out of the #SHRM15 conference and extend your learning well beyond the four-day show itself? The answer is to focus on your development opportunities and let the circus play out as it may.
Recognize that ‘experts’ aren't the only teachers
The conference always rolls out heavy hitters for their keynote speeches. This year, it's people like Michael Krzyzewski (i.e., "Coach K" from Duke) and Dr. Mehemet Oz. Everybody can learn something successful from these famous guys who make a lot of money.
However, the attendees sitting next to you in concurrent sessions may harbor very particular expertise that you need right now in your business.
So make sure to introduce yourself to the person to the right and left of you at each session. Hand out business cards.
Talk about what keeps you up at night, your major areas of failure, and the cool things you're trying to accomplish in HR.
Chances are, you'll make two or three meaningful connections that extend beyond the conference.
Take hand-written notes
The science is in, and you can't take notes on your iPad without checking Facebook. According to Scientific American, "Those who wrote out their notes by hand had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material than those who used took notes with their laptops."
Also, those who took notes with their hands weren't making annoying "clicking noise" during the sessions with their keyboards. That counts for something, too.
Become a citizen journalist
If you are lucky enough to attend the SHRM conference, repay the honor by bringing home juicy content and ideas for your team. Give your team bullet-points, slides, or even a 100-word email on the four key things that blew your mind away. Include links.
Make connections and introductions between your team and the speakers. Share the good stuff with your community, and you will continue to learn more about HR by being a teacher.
Take it a step further by following and contributing to the #SHRM15 discussions taking place on Twitter. There is a wealth of information, insight and trends being discussed via that hashtag leading up to, during and after the conference. So dive into the conversation.
Nobody cares that you won $300 at roulette
My final piece of advice is simple: everybody has seen The Hangover and nobody cares that you won $300 at roulette unless you won it while sitting next to Mike Tyson and his tiger.
Vegas is, indeed, the Circus Maximus of America. Don't forget that you're attending the SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition to learn and grow as a leader.
Save your fun vacation stories for when you come back from Rome!