IMG_4280-001This week we’ve been at HR Tech Europe in Amsterdam. It is a great mix of US and European HR Tech companies, where the big players are featured and the start-ups are welcomed and encouraged. It’s also small enough where vendors, analysts and attendees can have great conversations. One of my favorite parts of being there was getting to meet and spend time talking to so many brilliant women like Naomi Bloom, Stacey Harris, and Katherine Jones.

I also had many real conversations with people I knew and people I know a lot better now about everything besides HR or Tech. I had the most wonderful in depth conversations on love, children, religion, philosophy, learning, leadership, integrity, art, fonts, rhetoric, design, recovery, weasels, diversity, acupuncture, photography, emotions, music, and sex.

I should go to more tech conferences. But I don’t think they are all the same. The group that puts on HR Tech Europe is HRN Europe, and is run by Marc Coleman and Peter Russel, whom I adore. But the conference happens because of their incredible team who make everyone feel welcome. They check on every vendor, speaker, room, and the attendees throughout the day to make sure they have what they need ,and are getting what they came to find. They make every single person who walks in the door feel welcome, wanted, and cared for.

Last year I came with John Sumser, partly because we were both speaking at TRU London, but mostly because I had never visited Amsterdam. The day before the conference opened, Viki McCann, the Operations Director, dropped everything to put me on the list of attendees. Then every time I saw her for 2 days, she greeted me with such a beautiful smile, I just wanted to follow her around to bask in the kindness. Instead, I offered to take pictures and had a great time cajoling all the vendors to let me take team photos and portraits so they could prove they were actually working in Amsterdam.

They liked the pictures so much, they hired me to come back this year as one of their photographers. I spent most of my time with the vendors again, since there were plenty of people covering the sessions and doing interviews.  I took my cues from Viki, Katalin Csader (Marketing), and Máté Palicz (Senior Director), and focused on the people– literally.

Many of the sales teams I spoke with remembered me from last year. I know they are supposed to do that stuff, but they interact with hundreds of people in a short time, and I was never buying anything. Lots of people looked up my Linkedin profile and wondered what a lawyer was doing as a conference photographer. Mostly though, it was a joy to show people how beautiful they are, and to give my complete undivided attention to people working so hard to connect with others. They were surprised and delighted that the conference wanted to give something beyond the opportunity to do business with potential buyers, something personal.

The HRTechEurope team is great at putting on a conference that connects people with the information and opportunities they are looking for. But I have never experienced such personal attention, kindness, compassion and care in a business setting. It was contagious. You can see it on people’s faces.  Here are the pictures I took at the iHR Startup Awards, the Hunite Canal Cruise, Thursday and Friday.

Going to a tech conference and coming away feeling like part of a family of complete strangers and unrelated people is something I have never experienced. But it has happened twice at HR Tech Europe.

How can we bring more kindness and personal attention into our work and business? I don’t think there’s an app for that?

Apologies and gratitude to the media and technology critic Neil Postman, who wrote Teaching as a Subversive Activity in the ’60’s, and to William Tincup who is also a perfect example of kindness as a subversive activity.

FTC disclosure: HRN Europe paid me to come and take photographs. They did not pay me to write this, or even ask me to write anything. And I hadn’t planned on writing about the conference. But my experience was so extraordinary, I had to.


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