I was invited to attend TRU London 2 in 2010, but I unfortunately had a scheduling conflict and was unable to make it.
So when Bill Boorman, conference disorganizer extraordinaire, asked if I could make it out for TRU London 3, I blocked out my calendar as I was determined not to miss this event.
I had been warned by attendees of previous TRU London events that I would be entering a chaotic atmosphere with a lack of organization.
In fact, I was advised it would likely be best if I didn’t have any expectations at all.
However, I must say that I felt that TRU London was quite organized.
I hope Bill isn’t offended by that observation, because I know he takes pride in his unconference experience which is specifically designed to deviate from the standard conference format where a bunch of people listen to one presenter for an hour at a time.
It’s obvious that a different format from the recruiting conference norm does not necessarily lead to a poor experience. Although there were some track, track leader and schedule changes, I did not find them to be an issue, disruptive, or to lessen the impact of the event at all.
On The Money
It should not be overlooked that Bill doesn’t charge much for the TRU events.
It’s not that Bill doesn’t know how to price a recruiting conference – it’s that Bill feels that cost should not prevent people from attending an event and getting the opportunity to hear from and exchange ideas with the top minds in the industry.
Many companies have tightened their budgets and some simply won’t allow their employees to expense conferences. Bill’s TRU events are affordable for the corporate sourcer/recruiter as well as the independent – there is no $1000+ barrier to entry to rub elbows with the sourcing, recruiting, and social media elite.
When it comes to conferences, one has to wonder what a conference organizer’s primary motivator is – to make money, or to offer a forum for information exchange and thought leadership?
It can’t be both, as there can only be one primary reason.
For Bill and his TRU events, it’s the ability to offer a low (and sometime in the future, perhaps NO) cost gatherings for people to learn and share.
More Bang for Your Buck
TRU London 3 was comprised of at least 66 discussion tracks over 3 days.
That wasn’t a typo – 66 tracks!
Where else can you be exposed to that much content in 3 days, let alone 4 separate conferences?
Top Shelf Facilitators
If you didn’t attend TRU London 3, you missed out on a truly top shelf assortment of thought leaders from multiple countries.
Bill was somehow able to draw the likes of Matt Alder, Felix Wetzel, China Gorman, Kevin Wheeler, John Sumser, Michael Long, Sarah White, Andy Headworth, Arie Ball, Craig Fisher, Irina Shamaeva, Greg Savage, Gordon Lokenberg, Jacco Valkenburg, Geoff Webb, Lucian Tarnowski, Laurie Ruettimann, Mark Williamsto facilitate various sessions over the course of the TRU London 3 event.
And that list of names only begins to scratch the surface of the talent Bill attracted to TRU London 3!
I’ve been to my fair share of recruiting conferences, and I have to say that the TRU London event was by far the best I’ve attended with respect to attendee engagement, which is directly attributable to the “unconference” format.
The TRU experience is not about a group of people listening to one person or a panel speak for an hour with the hope of being able to ask a few questions if there is time.
From what I witnessed at TRU London 3, the experience is about engaged discussion and Q&A that can start immediately.
Most of the sessions I attended were healthy discussions of engaged participants. If it weren’t for the introduction of the track leaders, in some sessions you would be hard-pressed to identify who the track leader was because they were not busy dominating the discussion.
Organizers of social media, HR, and recruiting events, take note – it’s not so much about the big brand speaker as it is about the engagement, interaction, and the idea exchange of attendees.
Networking on a Different Scale
When it comes to conferences of any kind, people sometimes comment to the fact that they feel the networking opportunities available can sometimes exceed the value of the content being presented by the speakers.
I’m not sure if that was the case at TRU London 3, but I can say that the networking opportunities were, plentiful, strong and diverse.
Over the course of the event, I was able to connect and talk shop with recruiting and social media professionals from Canada, the U.K. (including Northern Ireland, England, and Scotland), the Republic of Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Australia, Switzerland, and the United States.
Moderators Would be a Good Addition
As good as the engagement was due to the “unconference” format of TRU London 3, some of the discussion tracks were dominated by a few attendees.
I think this is a natural function of group dynamics.
Some people are dominant and “take control” over discussions and participate more than others. Some people are comfortable speaking out before others stop talking, whereas other people more comfortable waiting for others to end their statements before speaking up.
If you’re one of the latter – you may never get a chance to speak up and share your ideas and experiences.
I didn’t witness any track leaders taking action to ensure that the discussions were not dominated by a few outspoken people and prompting for questions and comments from those who had not already spoken.
In future TRU events, I highly recommend that in addition to the track leader(s), at least one person should function as a true moderator to facilitate participation and make an effort to ensure everyone has a chance to contribute to the discussions.
The smartest, most talented and experienced people aren’t always the natural public speakers, and they certainly aren’t always the people who seem to talk just to hear themselves speak. The best discussions are ones in which everyone has a chance to share.
Recruiting is More than Social Media
There’s more to recruiting than social media and employer branding, but you may not have been able to tell that at TRU London 3.
While there were sessions addressing HR, diversity, SEO, RPO, the graduate experience, technology, job boards and Boolean strings, TRU London 3 was dominated by sessions involving social media and branding.
I know social media and employer branding is hot – but I would like to have seen more of an equal mix of topics as well as more diverse content.
It’s important to recognize that there are plenty of people who attend recruiting conferences who do not have a say at all in their employer’s branding efforts.
And believe it or not, social media is not the universal answer to all recruiting and talent attraction challenges. In fact, for some professions and for people from certain countries, social media isn’t effective or even a viable option.
Prior to attending TRU London, I had heard some rumors that the U.K. and most of Europe was slightly behind the U.S. when it comes to sourcing, recruiting, and social media.
I’m happy to report that’s not the case – at least from what I could tell from the people I was able to engage at #TRU London.
Additionally, I have to make mention of the fact that I met an astounding number of international entrepreneurs – people who have created ATS solutions, own multiple job boards, developed semantic job search technologies…just talking with some of these folks made me feel like I haven’t done anything with my life. :-)
Ricky Wheeler and Dan Martin from Broadbean – thank you for dinner, at a Mexican restaurant in London of all places (it was fabulous!), and for the fantastic discussion about the future of recruiting technology solutions.
I owe special thanks to Keith Potts and Felix Wetzel from Jobsite, as I was one of the fortunate few among the TRU London presenters and attendees who was treated to a truly VIP experience – being able to walk out onto the pitch and watch the Portsmouth Football Club win by a goal scored by the enigmatic Kanu from the director’s box – thank you gentlemen!
I found TRU London 3 to be a fantastic experience and a welcome (and needed!) deviation from the traditional conference. I was exposed to more content and more engaged discussion than I have ever experienced at a recruiting conference of any kind.
There is no doubt that Bill Boorman is on to something with his signature TRU events – other conference organizers should take notice, as Bill is effectively serving as a disruptor to the traditional conference model.
I applaud Bill for setting the price of admission as low as he does, as I agree that cost should not be a barrier for entry into information and idea exchange, and I sincerely hope he is able to achieve his vision of a no-cost conference at some point in the future, with entire events funded completely by sponsors and not attendees.
If you’d like to read other’s thoughts on TRU London 3, here is a blog that is curating all TRU London 3 posts.