The Northwest Human Resource Management Association (NHRMA) held its 76th Annual Conference & Tradeshow at the Spokane Convention Center on Sept. 29–Oct. 1. Affiliated with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), NHRMA serves human-resource professionals in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington state. This year’s conference had 620 attendees and 152 exhibiting representatives.
Average attendance for NHRMA’s Annual Conference is about 500 attendees with 60 exhibitors, but last year the program drew a record 687 attendees to Tacoma, Washington. Organizers expected attendance numbers to drop significantly this year, and worked on strategies to make sure the HR professionals who came had a valuable experience.
However, the conference attracted nearly as many attendees as in 2013 despite being held in Spokane, which organizers considered a more “remote” destination, according to Jubilee Vigna, CAE, an account manager for Conference Solutions, NHRMA’s third-party management company. Indeed, NHRMA exceeded its room block by 30 percent. “The Spokane location helped draw a different regional attendance than the conference typically gets,” Vigna said.
The strong attendance was a plus, because NHRMA wanted to emphasize networking this year. Organizers replaced the conference’s typical keystone social event with five different events designed to boost interaction among attendees, including a ghost tour around Spokane’s Riverfront Park and downtown area, a group painting class (with cocktails and snacks), a night out at an improv comedy show, and a walking food tour to sample local cuisine. More than a third of attendees participated in one of the five offerings, which Vigna said is consistent with past events. NHRMA plans to repeat the format at next year’s conference in Portland, Oregon.
This year NHRMA also rolled out a revamped conference mobile app. Numbers on usage of the app weren’t available at press time, but according to Vigna, “our strategic approach to engage attendees in different ways through the app was extremely successful.” Attendees used the app in a variety of ways, Vigna said, including as a scheduling tool and for a QR-code game that organizers developed.
“We had lots of people posting photos to the app album, and they responded positively to our task-specific push notifications,” Vigna said, adding that questions that arose about the app were easy to manage and answer. That led organizers “to believe we got solid traction and engagement with the app.”
155 Exhibitor personnel
152 Exhibitor personnel
Convene’s Pre-Con/Post-Con series asks meeting planners about their challenges and how they intend to address them (Pre-Con), and then circles back around after the meeting has occurred (Post-Con) to see how well they worked out.