So… after spending several amazing days with several hundred HR executives, thought leaders, and others in sunny Scottsdale I returned home with enough time to repack, throw our youngest her first birthday party (it had an owl theme if you care about such things), and hit the road to drive to Kansas City – home to more fountains than any city in the world aside from Rome – for the 2014 CUPA-HR Midwest Regional Conference. Rolling into town about an hour before the opening key note address, I was able to check into my room, change into some a bit more business appropriate than the shorts, t-shirt, and tennis shoes getup I made the three and a half hour drive in, and get to the grand ballroom with minutes to spare. The festivities kicked off with a great talk by Lizz Pellett of the The Sourcing Institute that echoed a lot of what I heard the prior weekend relative to “big data” and opportunities for HR to be more efficient. Lizz was engaging, charming, and kept the crowd entertained – needless to say it was a great way to kick off the conference.The rest of day one was filled with presentations, networking, chats with vendors, and dinner with some of my team and others in my organization (note: the pad thai with tofu at Kona Grill on The Plaza in Kansas City is the bomb).
Day two of the conference started with a second key note, this go around by Robert Van Arlen. Robert entertained us with a mix of stories, piano tunes, and wit – he was truly one of the highlights of the conference. Post-Robert, found me wandering from session to session to session before heading to an affinity group lunch where I had to haggle with the server to get a salad not buried in steak – I eventually prevailed. Then there were more sessions, more networking, more chats with vendors until we broke to get ready for the evening’s festivities – dinner (heavy on the local barbecue, light on the veggie options), music, and good times at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the American Jazz Museum (they share a common space where events are held). The museums were wonderful, informative, and somewhere I look forward to visiting again in the future – during and after dinner, we were entertained by local all-female rock band Quatro which kept the crowd grooving and lured most everyone onto the dance floor (including yours truly).
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel but several of us weren’t ready to call it a night and decided to hit The Plaza for drinks (and food for me, my dinner of potato salad wasn’t really cutting it), and as we were getting ready to head out we ran into the morning’s main attraction Robert Van Arlen. Robert was kind enough to join us for food, drinks, and good conversation. We got to hear more details about the stories he shared in the morning, get some additional scoop on his new television show Angels in the Neighborhood, and just shoot the breeze. We closed down a local pizza/wine bar before heading back (where we ended up hanging out for a while longer in the lobby bar sharing HR stories, personal stories, and getting to know our colleagues across the larger university HR organization better). Then it was off to bed (at a very late hour), only to shine and rise for a 6:30 am walk with some of my team in the park near the hotel to start off day three.
The last day of the conference was a whirlwind of presentations, announcements (the conference hits Detroit next spring), and goodbyes to friend and colleagues, old and new. Before I knew it I was putting my suitcase in my car and hitting the road, headed back to Saint Louis. A few hours later I was back home (or at least my temporary home, we’re currently staying with my in-laws as we’ve sold our house and the house we’re building won’t be ready until late July) and hanging out with my wife, daughters, and my best furry buddy – and as much as I enjoyed the last two weeks, I’m off the road (not counting my daily commute) for a little while, at least until July when it looks like I might be attending the CUPA-HR Association Leadership Forum (provided I’m accepted into the new Wildfire Program – which I’ll find out about around the 16th) and then San Antonio in September for the CUPA-HR National Conference – where I hope to reconnect with several of the amazing people I’ve met and become acquainted with over the last several weeks from universities near and far.