Sunday the SHRM Conference started! Q & I connected. It was great because he had a truck, so we could bring everything into the exhibit hall at one time. This was another lesson learned from last year, when we were carrying boxes across the exhibit area is at least 3 or 4 trips. This year, we were able to unload at the closest dock to our booth, use a hand truck and had everything at the booth in about 10 minutes.
I went to the opening session where Condoleezza Rice was speaking. She was very articulate and well received by the audience. At the main session I could see how many people were there at the conference. The ballroom was filled; it appears over 12,000 had registered and a good number of them were there.
The exhibit hall opened at 4:00 pm with an opening reception in the exhibit hall. We began welcoming folks to come into the booth and pick up materials and let us scan their badges to enter to win a registration to the Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Baltimore. Last year, over the entire event, we collected about 350 cards from participants. This year, in addition to Q, we had two volunteers from the local community, Miles & Kimberly. They kept the materials on the table and encouraged attendees to stop by. They got a chance to learn more about Out & Equal, and by the end had the patter down and were able to engage those who wanted to talk to more. Q & I made a great team. As one of us would get involved in longer conversation, we would pass off the scanner and continue to encourage others to register for the drawing. At the end of just this first 3 hours, we had 217 leads who checked in with us.
The reactions of folks that walk by the Out & Equal booth falls into one of four categories:
First, there are those who see LGBT or the words Out & Equal and a big smile comes across their face and they stop by and say “hi.”
The second type are those who are with a group and see us, look a second time, and then walk on. We usually see them come back later and pick up some material. They frequently tell us that they were with co-workers and not out so they couldn’t stop but they wanted to come back by when they were alone. Some don’t come back and I always hope they find a resource in their lives to find safety in their workplace.
The third are allies who have been working on LGBT workplace equality issues and want more information or share the work that they are doing.
The fourth type walks by our booth, reads the banner and sees the words Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, stop and re-read it and then quickly look away, scowl or look away. They walk by and definitely don’t approach the booth. There are, of course, a lot of people who just walk by because there is so much to see and we just don’t seem to come up on their radar screen. We are the only LGBT booth there and just our presence makes a difference.
We expect we will exceed the number of contacts we had last year but more importantly, we are letting others know that Out & Equal is in the house. Thanks to our Atlanta support to help us make SHRM a success!