The True Value of the Vendor Hall at your next HR Conference

September 28, 2016

Look beyond the giveaways and trinkets to opportunities for vendor education, thought leadership and efficiency in the buying process

Written by: Samantha Colby

I know what you are thinking – the Vendor Hall is the area within the conference venue that I’ll visit for receptions (hello, free cocktails and hors d’oeuvres!), walk through to grab the coolest tchotchkes I see, and enter to win prizes. While all of those offerings are standard, the true value that the Vendor Hall presents you, as an attendee, and your organization is so much greater than those 10 free pens and the fruit infuser water bottle you grabbed.

Although the size and variety of vendors exhibiting varies from conference to conference, the value of the Vendor Hall remains consistent – visiting the Vendor Hall is your opportunity to educate yourself on new technology offerings and innovation, and expand your knowledge in the HR space.  If you are shopping for a new solution, you have an outstanding opportunity to make the buying process substantially more efficient.

Vendor Education

                A quick walk through of the entire Vendor Hall is all you need to see what new organizations may have entered the HCM technology space, and you should be able to quickly identify vendors you haven’t seen before.  All vendors are hoping to engage with as many attendees as possible, so be open to conversation, and stop by their booths to ask these new vendors what it is they provide. You’ll listen to a 30 second elevator pitch, and have a chance to sign up for more information if you’re interested, or walk away if you are not. Above all, be honest with the vendor – if they are asking specific questions about your current solutions, like “What are you using for your current HRIS system?” or “Could your system use any optimization?”, they are trying to pre-qualify your company as a lead (which doesn’t make them evil, it just means they’re doing their job!).  Don’t say yes if you know that you aren’t going to answer any of their phone calls or e-mails. It is okay to answer honestly, and say that you hadn’t heard of them and were hoping to educate yourself, or that you’re not looking to purchase anything at this time, if that is indeed the case.

Expand your Knowledge

                 Many organizations that you’ll see exhibiting at your next conference regularly produce some sort of thought leadership content, and stopping by the booth is your opportunity to find out about it. Blogs (like this one), whitepapers, research reports, and webinars have value to all of us as the HCM space continues to evolve, and we have a responsibility to keep up with industry happenings.  Plus, if you have a credential that requires re-certification credits, like a SHRM-CP, PHR, or HRIP, you’ll be able to quickly gather information about how to participate in the vendor’s educational opportunities to earn those re-certification credits. If you don’t have a certification to maintain, you’ll still find the thought leadership content you bring back to your organization has tremendous value.

Efficiency in your buying process

                 If you are shopping for a new solution, the Vendor Hall is your perfect opportunity to quickly identify key solution providers that your organization should consider. You may even find tools, like HRchitect’s HCM Technology Shopping List, available to you to help identify vendors in different categories at the show.

For example, if you are shopping for a Learning Management System, spend 3-5 minutes with each vendor offering a solution in the area you’re shopping for.  Keep in mind that not all solution provider will be exhibiting at every conference, but this is a great place to start when performing due diligence.  Often, you can use this short period of time to drill down and share specific information, like your current solution and pain points, purchase timeframe, and decision making structure within your organization. It’s perfectly OK to approach a vendor and say:

“We don’t have an LMS in place, but would like to implement one.  We are currently administering training courses in a group setting once a month, and manually recording attendance and course evaluations, which isn’t very efficient. I am a part of a committee researching solutions, and we’d like to have contracts signed with a vendor by January 1st.”

This will allow the vendor to truly understand your needs, and then once you connect after the conference, can move right into a scripted demo, which is a better use of your committee’s time rather than the vendor trying to ask probing questions to uncover your organization’s pain points.

The next time you find yourself visiting a Vendor Hall at a conference, whether it be one as large as the HR Technology Conference, or something smaller like an industry specific conference, shift your perspective and think beyond the tchotchkes in order to take advantage of the true value of the vendor hall.

If you see HRchitect at an upcoming conference, stop by to grab some of our awesome giveaway items, but more importantly, learn more about us, take advantage of our thought leadership content, and more tips for how to make the best purchase decision for your HCM technology.

Samantha Colby

About Samantha Colby

Samantha Colby is the Marketing Manager at HRchitect, the leader in HCM systems strategic consulting. Samantha has several years of experience in the payroll and benefits administration space. Samantha has B2B and consumer marketing experience in several industries including consulting, higher education, and sports and entertainment. When not preparing for upcoming trade shows or executing marketing campaigns, Samantha can be found following Boston-based sports teams or reading a  book from the local library.