Top 100 v1.61: ERE Expo – Center of Influence

Influence is hard to distinguish from celebrity. Being well known is one of the components of influence. (It’s almost impossible to be influential if no one knows who you are.) We are in the age of the democratizion of celebrity, the post-privacy world. People rise to the top and fall back down faster than one hit wonders with a 1970′s recording contract.

The more enduring an influencer is, the more the influencer is like an institution. It’s sort of a circular definition that means that tenure is an important aspect of the scope of a particular influencer. It’s not the only factor, however. Some people accelerate onto the world stage quickly and have influence that is disproportionate to their time on the stage.

That means that influence is a balance of momentum, duration, impact and reach. New technologies enable their early adopters to achieve a faster success. The fundamental mechanics are the same. Momentum, duration and reach are readily measurable online. Impact is harder to quantify.

There are also ‘nests of influence’; places where influencers congregate and the story gets developed. There are a number of online communities ranging from ERE and RecruitingBlogs to and the recent HRTechConference group on LinkedIn. Over the past couple of years, these niche communities have dominated the online conversation. Their aggregate influence has grown dramatically over the past decade. Before that, ERE was alone in the field. The online ‘nests’ shape the daily dialog of sales reps and industry players. They drive the small talk in conversations between industry members.

They can’t hold a candle to to the impact of the physical events in the industry. The landscape is littered with some obvious and some not so obvious centers of influence. ERE’s Expo, HRExective’s HRTech Conference, SHRM events and the OnRec events all come quickly to mind. Each of the HR Silos (Talent Management, Learning, OD, Compensation, Benefits, Performance Management) all have their own professional associations and events. There are also a number (maybe as many as 40) of small intimate groups that offer peer to peer networking for executives in the Industry. There are even other events that blur the line between the large public expos and the small intimate gatherings. The SharedXpertise family of events falls into this category.

We’re going to look more deeply into these ‘nests of influence’ and their aggregate impact on the industry in a later piece.

Last week marked the 10th anniversary of the ERE Expo. Held in San Diego, the event saw about 400 industry influencers, practitioners and vendors swirl together for something that resembled a wedding with education modules. Like all of these events, there were a number of recurring themes:

  • One of the most interesting demos I saw was from an unlikely source. PCRecruiter is an industry stalwart ATS and Recruiting system used by high end professionals. Their latest iteration essentially eliminates the application specific interface in favor of a deep integration with the Microsoft Office suite. What you end up with is new toolbars and reports with no pure application interface. It seems like the beginning of a powerful trend…the rapidly disappearing user interface. More on this later.
  • One could be excused for having the feeling that social media is the second coming. Many speakers waxed on about the ultimate consequence of new publishing tools and social networking. Any attempt to suggest a modified view was met with disbelief;
  • Another key theme, often expressed by vendors and practitioners alike, was the idea that all job applicants should receive relationship treatment; that every applicant is entitled to certain inalienable rights. Again, suggesting otherwise was met with incredulity;
  • Social media was also heavily represented in the vendor arena. The vendor floor offered the full spectrum from substantial booths by JobVite, BrazenCareerist and Jobs2Web to single person alliance machines from Jibe, InsideJob, BraveNewTalent and LokLoq
  • Rather than dying, the job boards seem to be having a renaissance. SimplyHired, Indeed, Monster and CareerBuilder all exerted heavy influences on the dialog.
  • Partly because SourceCon was held on the first two days of the week, it seemed like sourcing really developed industry respect. There seems to be a real career path emerging in the sourcing disciplines.
  • It was the year of the RPO. As costs continue to be cut, the outsourcing of all or part of medium to large company Recruiting is increasingly an option.

The influence of an event like ERE is something to behold. Over the course of the event, you could hear vendors shifting their pitches as they came to understand the positioning of their competitors. Ideas flow quickly at ERE as the networks rub up against each other and swap gossip, intelligence and insight.

It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that something less than 1% of working professionals attend trade shows. When you’re in the swirl, it’s all consuming and all encompassing. It really feels like ‘this is the market’. The ‘echo chamber’ effect makes it feel like the messaging from the event is viral and very contagious. The truth is somewhat different.

There are plenty of bigger events. None have the influence per capita of ERE’s twice annual expos. The show is really about the schmooze that goes on in the halls outside of the formal conference.

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