Brits abroad…

As my 24 hour journey back to the UK stretches out before me (Yes, 24 hours!) And with approximately 3 hours to go before I can even think about boarding my flight (Via Paris with a whopping 7 hour stopover!) it seems an opportune time to jot down my thoughts having just spent the last 48 hours in Atlanta attending my first HRevolution unconference.

If you haven’t heard of HRevolution before click here and check them out.  For those of you familiar with ConnectingHR then I can tell you, it is very similar – a community of like minded, supportive, engaging, challenging and above all, extremely good to know HR folk.  Their unconferences, like ours, are gatherings where this community come together to talk shop.

Arriving on Friday evening I literally stepped off my flight and straight into buzzing tweetup and re grouped with the rest of the #hrbritpack.  The atmosphere was great and the reception warm – a great opportunity to finally put real faces to avatars!  After several beers and a cozy chat or two by the fire, we retired to ensure a fresh presence at the unconference the following morning.

So onto the event itself.  The venue – the Georgia tech conference centre – was superb.  So good in fact, that coupled with the structured agenda, it was hard at times to tell the difference between this and a normal conference.  There were challenges too with the room layouts, and the structure of some of the sessions, which sometimes made it difficult to come and go as you please or get real conversation going as opposed to presentation style statements being made back and forth.

Having said that, this was a small issue, by no means universal and over the day I found myself getting involved in some great conversations, debating and listening in good measure.  There could perhaps have been a wee bit more open challenging and maybe this was a feature of the size/layout of the rooms.  Although I did hear that in one or two sessions involving Mervyn Dinnen and Maren Hogan the gloves came off!  Well, perhaps only partially – these are after all thoroughly nice people after all 😉

My favourite session was the Great Performance Debate led by Mark Carden and William Tincup.  An opening statement of “lets blow this shit up” written on the flip chart in relation to performance review processes promised a lively debate, and after a bit of a flaky start, soon turned into a great exchange of views and experiences.

My second favourite, and only by a whisker, was the #HRSlam session, where we had to pool our expertise to solve a real live, company organisation case study, where the output of the session would be shared back with the CEO of the organisation in question – cracking idea! I had a great time working through our solution with a our team and also listening to the comedy that was the final ‘presentations’.  And Craig Fisher should definitely give up the day job and get into standup comedy 😉

I made it in and out of a number of other sessions throughout the day covering subjects like diversity, emotional intelligence and even how to connect without being creepy – top tips on how not to be a social media stalker!

As the unconference drew to a close, it struck me just what had been achieved – HR professionals had gathered under their own steam, to talk about the things they want to talk about.  On top of that, there was 48 hours of incredible, non-stop networking – and they say HR folk are the worst networkers?!  That wasn’t my experience.

After a long day talking shop there was only one thing left to do – party!  And our hosts pulled this off with aplomb.  After a nice quiet drink or two with Neil Morrison, Laurie Ruittemann, Mervyn Dinnen and John Sumser, and a lively dinner where Neil and I let the side down a bit by drinking too much cool aid (Thanks to James Papiano for pointing that out!) there seemed only one thing left to do – go clubbing!

At this point there is really not much more I can say about the rest of the night.  Suffice to say that we didn’t end up on the front page of the local newspaper and I made it to breakfast the following morning.  What happened in between was a bit of a blur of blue and green drinks and a lot of what I think you would call ‘bumping and grinding’!  I will simply encourage you to watch the rather ropy video I managed to capture.  And @ewmonster, you can rest easy, It was way too dark to see any of your outrageous moves 😉

I met so many great people but my memory and the crappy connection at CDG, Paris airport are preventing me from name checking them all so ill point you instead to the twitter list so you can check them out for yourself.  If you are in HR in the UK, id recommend reaching out and connecting with these people – you will be missing something if you don’t.

Check out the list here.

Caption Competition!

Ive yet to see the official photo’s but I managed to capture a couple of truly awful ones that I offer up in the name of duty and invite you all to suggest an appropriate caption!  Be as creative as you like but try not to “damage my personal brand” (Barf!) by leaving anything too innapropriate 😉 Leave you suggestions below.

Photo 1 @neiljmorrison and @lauriruitermann

photo 2 @mervyndinnen and @jennyjenshr


Time to get this post up before the wireless fails me, but my takeways from the event:

  • An HR conference can be interesting, rewarding, engaging and well worth the frankly absurd travelling required to make it there.
  • The conference market really needs to wake up and smell the coffee.  Attendees are running their own conferences – hello!  And #HRevolution this year was flawless.
  • The world is still flat in most organisations.  Our overall general refusal to think differently is quite depressing
  • We are still struggling with creating a true adult to adult environment within the workplace – we make all the right noises about bringing you in as a whole person, then get to work as soon as you arrive, stripping away your layers of humanity, capability and potential.
  • Cream cheese and strawberry pastries are lethal – step AWAY from them immediately
  • We have a movement going on here, and its international.  Its embryonic right now, but its there nonetheless.  Watch this space…
  • Neil and I should stop arguing in other peoples company 😉


  1. It was fantastic to meet you and your UK compatriots, Gareth! I am glad you had a good time, and I hope I can make it to the UK for one of the Connect events one day. You guys brought an interesting perspective that shaped the event (for the better!), and it wouldn’t have been the same without you.


    1. Hey Ben! You must come over, it would be great to have you! Nice to meet you and shame we didnt get to talk, def next time! Cute family!


  2. Nice sum up Gareth…not sure if you could have got a worse picture of me but my guess is that Jenny is pleading ‘Someone take away this cardboard cut out of Merv’


  3. Merv, you do look sort of cardboard! But my god, what an awful picture. Seriously….not my best likeness!


  4. Gareth – so great to meet you at the event, many thanks for making the long journey.

    Pic 1 – Laurie Ruettimann showing off the spoils for selling access to Prince Neil Morrison.

    Pic 2 – Jenny Payne expresses shock at her first encounter with the Ghost of Meryvn Dinnen


    1. Great to meet you too Steve! Well worth the journey, such a warm welcome we were knocked out. The Ghost of Mervyn Dinnen – he’s already a legend! Look forward to continuing the conversations.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s