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President's Message

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS…

I recently attended the 2021 SHRM National Conference in Las Vegas. The last SHRM conference that I attended was also in Las Vegas in 2019 and it was a fabulous event. Of course, that was pre-Covid, so I was unsure of what to expect this time, as we are still very much in the midst of battling the pandemic. The 2020 SHRM conference was cancelled due to Covid and the 2021 conference had to be rescheduled from June in Chicago to September in Vegas.

Things seemed to be on track for the rescheduled event before the Delta variant came on the scene. I wondered if we would get news of a cancellation. Fortunately for 8,000 in-person attendees, the show went on. Eight thousand may sound like a lot, plus 3,000 joined virtually, but it was a far cry from 2019’s attendance of well above 20,000 in-person attendees.

When I attended my first SHRM National Conference, in 2012 in Atlanta, I was blown away by the sheer number of attendees. There were thousands upon thousands of HR professionals from all over the world, coming together to learn, network, and have some fun.

The conference in Vegas this year was noticeable smaller than 2019, but still full of informative sessions, inspirational speakers, an impressive and interactive exposition, entertainment, hospitality, and tons of resources. The biggest difference was that everyone was required to wear a mask. Even so, I was able to meet so many wonderful HR professionals and build connections from all over the country, through our mutual conference experience.

There were a handful of SAHRMA BOD members who attended the conference. It’s nice when you can find a familiar face in a sea of masked strangers. We had the best time meeting up in the Volunteer Leader Lounge, meeting in the SHRM Certification Lounge, going together to the SHRM Certification party, sitting together for the Key Note speakers, plus going out afterwards for dinner and to enjoy the Las Vegas nightlife.

Everyone will have a different takeaway from the conference, based on the sessions they attended, information they sought, and people they met. I had two huge inspirations. The first was listening to Michael Phelps share the journey that led to his Olympic greatness, his public mental health crisis, and ultimate turnaround to where he is today, now focused on connecting individuals to mental health resources. The approach he used to stay focused and motivated during Olympic training, to make progress every day, inspires me to not give up on my goals. His openness about personal struggles shows that even the best of the best need emotional support and a safe space to be vulnerable.

The second inspiration came from Ms. Opal Lee, a surprise speaker of one of our morning sessions. Ms. Opal is called the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” for her efforts to make Juneteenth a national holiday. At the age of 95, she’s still got it! I was moved by her stories of growing up in Texas, her non-stop community involvement, her commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion, and her witty words of wisdom. She asked that SHRM Conference attendees please not let what happens in Vegas, stay in Vegas. She asked that we take what we have learned and the inspiration we gained during the conference and apply those lessons to make a difference in the communities we live and the workplaces we support.

So, this time we break the rule. What happened in Vegas for thousands of SHRM Conference attendees isn’t going to stay in Vegas, and that’s a good thing!


Dawn Cunningham, PHR, SHRM-CP

SAHRMA President

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