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Venue. Registration. Agenda. Sponsorships. Budget. Speakers. Content. Hotel, transportation, logistics. Food, beverage, after parties. Naming, branding, promotion. Momentum. Credibility. Experience. 

Building an industry conference from the ground up is a feat; there are so many variables, so many touchpoints that need to be memorable and impactful in order to create an experience people not only want to return to, but share. And in the HCM and talent acquisition spaces, with at least 20+ known conferences and a portion of those built into budgets year after year without a blink, it’s extremely difficult to forge a new path. 

And if building a conference is a feat, building a community is a triumph. I know that’s what makes the Transform Recruitment Marketing Conference unique ‒ our goal since 2016 has been to create a conference that fuels a community of leaders and future leaders who will change how we think about and act on talent acquisition, employer branding, and recruitment marketing. And boy has our community been crushing it. 

It’s the community that continues the message and takeaways. That continues the conversations and learnings long after the sessions. That builds relationships between the people and teams who will innovate, change and adapt. 

The best conferences simply provide the platform and inspiration to grow that community. And we’re doing it again in Boston June 2-4

Symphony Talent and SmashFly: Our Transform in 2020

Our 200+ attendees ‒ including customers and practitioners ‒ spoke to us after the 2019 conference in June, and the number one resounding opinion was: “Keep the conference intimate.” The second was that The Revere was the best event venue they’d been to. 

Then in November, as we were getting ready to think about Transform 2020, SmashFly had its biggest moment in its 12 year history: we were acquired by Symphony Talent, a global leader in candidate experience and employer brand transformation and technology. It’s incredibly validating that one of the first questions (among many others of course) from some of our customers post-acquisition was: “What does this mean for Transform?!” 

And it’s incredibly telling that one of the first conversations I had with Roopesh Nair, Symphony Talent (and now SmashFly) CEO, was around Transform. “We have to do it again,” he said. No questions asked. It’s empowering to have a CEO who understands the importance of thought leadership and trailblazing outside of our own product vision and who is pushing our new, combined company to think bigger and be more present amidst this transition. 

Changing the Purpose of Talent Acquisition Conferences

If I’m honest, I believe that “meh” conferences are the standard. And attendees have resigned themselves to being OK with the status quo. They might return the next year, but they’ll likely cut out early, skip the networking, multitask through sessions, and take work calls during the breaks. But when we can build an event from scratch and rethink the foundation through to the smallest of details, we are literally free to do whatever we want. 

And that’s what SmashFly and Symphony Talent will continue to do in 2020: grow the most important conference (and community) in talent acquisition. 

For everyone who attended, sponsored or spoke at Transform 2019, I’m preaching to the choir. For everyone who didn’t, I’m sharing a little bit of our thinking in doing a conference differently (read between the lines — YES — this is why you should attend).

Keynotes you’ll remember for life:

If a keynote doesn’t make me laugh, cry, want to quit my job and change the world, or simply not check my phone in 45 minutes, then it’s not powerful enough. Check, check, check, check. 

  1. Sarah Hurwitz, former chief speechwriter for Michelle Obama, speaking about the power of talking like a human to humans. Ummm…the poignant word behind one of the most pivotal FLOTUSes in U.S. history? I can’t wait
  2. Jake Wood, the 2018 winner of Pat Tillman’s Award for Courage and CEO of Team Rubicon, a non-profit that hires veterans for disaster relief around the globe. Jake has responded to some of the world’s most devastating natural disasters in the past decade and will share his perspective on “The One and The Nine” when it comes to finding exceptional leaders and exceptional doers. 
  3. Not sold yet? Well, we have one more major keynote we’ve yet to announce, and trust me, it’s a big name you’ll recognize. And you won’t want to miss it.  Check social for some teasers to see if you can guess before we officially reveal!

Content you’ll really use:

At a talent acquisition conference I attended recently, I ran into a practitioner sneaking out of the venue early in the morning. I asked why he was taking off, and his response was brutally honest (but totally reasonable).

“I’m just bored.”

The number one and two reasons for boredom are lack of connection and lack of relevancy. 

How do we solve this at Transform? We hand select speakers that are emotional — that get pumped up talking about doing things differently, buying new technologies, hiring for different skill sets, and making their bosses or teams a little nervous with all their experimentation. We also ensure that every single session, whether on mainstage or Starter or Master Classes, always delivers at least three things that matter. Three things that you can walk away and say, “OK, I know what I can do with that 45 minutess of listening.” 

If you’re not writing down notes for every session at Transform, I take full responsibility (but you totally will). 

The attendees are your people, period.

Our Transform community knows each other. They look forward to getting together, and they seek each other out to share strategies, pain points, challenges and lessons learned. They can’t wait to connect with new voices and new perspectives, and they actually talk during breaks, lunches, and after parties. 

These are the people who, for the past five years (and likely before that), were the disruptors. The creatives. The boundary pushers. The experimenters. The rebels. In any industry, there are only a portion of people who fit that mold. In ours, you’ll find them all at Transform. 

Actual fun, for real:

Allyn Bailey from Intel had the entire session hall doing an infinity loop dance last year. Chad and Joel Cheesman from the Chad and Cheese Podcast started happy hour early on stage. At least ten people tried to break dance in front of the live band at the after party. There were glow sticks. There was also a sushi spread. 

Please. See. Video. Footage. 

The first time you’ll see what we’ve been working on:

This conference isn’t about Symphony Talent and SmashFly because it’s not a user conference. But this year is a little different in that we are merging two of the biggest brands in the space, and it means a lot for the future of recruitment marketing technology, recruitment advertising and employer brand services. 

Our CEO will open the conference sharing our own transformation story, giving the room a first look at our upgraded technology and how our vision will change both the internal and external experiences in talent and employee experience. 

Are you a Transformer?

That was a rhetorical question. Because of course you are. And if you’re not yet, then let us help you become one. 

I’m extremely proud of what the SmashFly (and now Symphony Talent) team has built with Transform; the conference itself, yes (I promise you will LOVE this event), but more importantly the community of 10,000+ across virtual events, certification, Facebook groups and local meetups. 

If you’re a disruptor, come to Transform. If you’re an experimenter, come to Transform. If you’re a challenger, come to Transform. If you’re a transformer, well, you get the idea.

See you in Boston June 2-4.

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