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Wed, Sep 1, 2010

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TalentNet Live: Top 3 Takeaways

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A few minutes into last week’s TalentNet Live, I looked up from my computer monitor and noticed something a little strange, at least as recruiting conferences go.  The day’s schedule didn’t look a lot different than most of these events, with social media and emerging technology topics dominating the agenda.  But unlike a lot of these events, there didn’t seem to be another computer open in the sea of HR and recruiting professionals.

Nope.  Instead, the room actually seemed to be listening intently (and learning!) from the conversation at hand.  The Twitter stream on the event hashtag (#TNL), a deluge during the week prior, had turned into a trickle, with most engagement happening inside the room.  Attendees were raising hands, asking meaningful questions of the speakers and each other, and writing down the highlights…in long hand.

So, I decided to do something that seemed antithetical to my usual presence at these conferences and confabs.  I powered off my computer, put it in my bag, and borrowed a pen.  I stopped Tweeting and started listening, following other attendees’ decidedly low tech approach to an incredibly high tech conference.

And then a funny thing happened: by closing my computer, I opened my mind.  Rather than worry about concentrating on fitting the content of the presentations into 140 characters, I could concentrate on how they fit into the bigger picture.  Here’s what I learned:

Top 3 TalentNet Live Take Aways:

1. Location-Based Isn’t A New Concept: A lot of the presentations focused on the tools and technologies around location based recruiting, including practical applications of 4Square, Gowalla, Facebook Places, etc. in the talent acquisition process.

These are important, and exciting, technological advancements that have the potential to revolutionize the way we identify with and engage with candidates.  But they’re simply an extension of what we’ve been doing for years: knowing the local markets in which we recruit.

The focus of recruiters in the Dallas market, with its concentration of businesses in CPG, Energy and Financial Services was completely different than, say, the competitive landscape of NGOs and public sector firms that dominated the conversation at RecruitDC, with unique candidates, companies and considerations.

Although the conversation revolved around the same tools and technologies, the success strategies and best practices for leveraging them differed greatly from those in other markets or regions, proving the old maxim of “think globally, act locally” isn’t just an aphorism, but a mandate for success.

2. The Social Conversation’s Changing: A year or so ago, social recruiting seemed to revolve around value proposition and whether or not companies should be investing resources and effort into social media.  There was a very perceptible shift evident at TalentNet, with social positioned not as a future possibility, but as a current (and pressing) reality. As the event kicked off, very few in the room raised their hands when asked if they were actively recruiting on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.

But when the time came for that same audience to weigh in on a few proposed topics for a “Surprise Session” for that afternoon, topics like compliance, employer branding and candidate experience were overwhelmingly beaten by “Twitter 101,” which turned out to be among the day’s best attended, and most well received, sessions.

It became clear that, even among those not active on social, talent managers realize its value and desperately want to (or need to) become involved in Recruiting 3.0.  The biggest obstacle to adoption today isn’t buy-in; it’s learning and developing the critical competencies for success.  There’s still a ways to go, but TalentNet Live definitively demonstrated how far we’ve come.

3. “In Real Life” Is (Still) Real Important: TalentNet Live, as event organizer Craig Fisher pointed out during his opening remarks, started with a single Tweet, a suggestion to take the weekly TalentNet Twitter conversation offline.

The event, now in its second year, drew several hundred recruiters and talent professionals from across the Metroplex, and the nation, to the Frito-Lay Headquarters for the opportunity to meet, learn and interact “in real life.”  The conference, while obviously providing a powerful reminder on the possibilities of social media, also showcased its inherent limitations: there’s still nothing more valuable than face-to-face interaction when it comes to building relationships and communicating ideas.

The best ideas, the most meaningful interactions, the truly thought provoking conversations didn’t happen during the sessions packing the agenda.  It happened passing in hallways, shaking hands, at the line for lunch.  Face-to-face, turns out, beats Facebook any day.

Those are the kind of opportunities you’re likely to miss if you’re focused too much on social media, something that some of us, in the constant quest for content and connections, can often forget.  TalentNet Live served as a powerful reminder that, even in the age of instant information and interconnection, good things happen when you log off and tune in.

That’s what I’d have Tweeted, anyway.

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  • http://www.fishdogs.com Craig Fisher


    Really great to see you again last week. Thank you so much for being here. I’ve decided that you are required to be at any future event I host or attend.

    I’ll be posting most of the slides from TNL as weell as the cool tools list to http://www.TalentNetLive.com this week. Great post today, thank you!

    Cheers, CF

  • Matt Charney

    Thanks so much for the comment, Craig! It was a great event; as you said during your opening remarks, the conference creates a foundation to build upon, but success depends on keeping the conversation going. I’m looking forward to doing just that.

  • http://hrringleader.com Trish McFarlane

    Matt, you nailed it with this post. Like you, I didn’t do much tweeting. And, that was not because it wasn’t worth tweeting. I was too busy having conversations and participating. I think those of us that experience events like this have figured something out….it’s not better to have more tweets from your session. In fact, if I’m a speaker I’d rather have very few tweets because that means I’m taking questions throughout and I’m hopefully making conversation happen. Thanks for saying what so many of us in attendance were thinking.

    p.s. great seeing you!!