UNLEASH America: Exploring the Vision, Value, and Content for HR Professionals

Hosted by

Mervyn Dinnen

Analyst, Author, Commentator & Influencer

Trish Steed

CEO and Principal Analyst, H3 HR Advisors

About this episode

UNLEASH America: Exploring the Vision, Value, and Content for HR Professionals

Hosts: Trish McFarlane, Mervyn Dinnen

Guest: Marc Coleman, Founder & CEO, UNLEASH.ai

This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, we were joined by the Founder of UNLEASH, Marc Coleman to chat about the UNLEASH America event.

– Vision behind the UNLEASH.ai conferences

– What’s new and exciting in the conference world

– Why should an HR professional attend the event?

– The importance of content and a culture of reciprocity in their business


This was a really interesting show, thanks to Marc for joining us! Remember to subscribe to the HR Happy Hour wherever you get your podcasts.

Transcript follows:

Trish 0:26
Welcome to the HR Happy Hour Network. I am joined here by my reporting partner Mervyn Dinnen. Mervyn, good to see you.

Mervyn Dinnen 0:33
Good to see you, too. Trish. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Trish 0:35
It’s been a while since we’ve been together in the same location.

Mervyn Dinnen 0:39
It has, I’ve had to come to America for it, but it’s worthwhile.

Trish 0:42
I was just gonna say is it worthwhile for you?

Mervyn Dinnen 0:44
Of course is worthwhile.

Trish 0:45
For anyone who doesn’t know, we are here today at UNLEASH America, right in Las Vegas. Just started and it’s been a heck of a day so far. And we were lucky enough to snag time with Marc Coleman, the founder of the entire event and UNLEASH as a world dominating event now, right? Welcome to the show, Marc.

Marc Coleman 1:09
Thanks, Trish. Great to be here.

Trish 1:11
So we’re catching you actually, just as as day one is kind of ending? How are you feeling?

Marc Coleman 1:17
Great. It’s been a game changer for us. This one, we’re in a new home. So we’ve been able to do things we’ve never been able to do before. So just looking at the context of what we did historically here in the US versus what we do in Europe. It’s streets apart. And we’re really, really excited. So it’s good to get this. This has been a How would you say a labor of love trying to get it off the ground for good. It’s been a long project. And it’s a big project for us as well. We’re here for the next four years.

Trish 1:48
Well, that’s one of the things we want to talk to you about is, is really kind of your vision of not just the industry in general, we want to hear some of that. But we also want to hear about for UNLEASH because you have multiple events. But this one, specifically this year is at the Caesars Forum, and it’s not your traditional kind of HR conference, if you will. So I’d love to just get your perspective on sort of what is your vision for this year? And then maybe we dive in a little bit into what’s coming in the next couple of years?

Marc Coleman 2:17
Sure. This year, we I think we to get into Caesars Forum, because you know, it’s not an easy industry to exist in, especially post pandemic, our competitors are tech companies in California, you can book out hotels and venues for five to 10 years. And not just that you then go into healthcare, or big medical conventions and stuff like that is the home of global or international events. So I think this year, I had to capitalize, we had to build a tent outside. We’ve never done that before. And we will never be doing that again. Well, no, because they know where to put our mainstage because there is another event and the other half of the building. And I think building a tent, they’ve been building it in the carpark for a week and a half. And you’ve got a pump air conditioning in because even though it’s April, it’s 32 degrees outside, right? So it’s gotten quite warm. And I just trying to figure that out with suppliers that they’re not the same old suppliers either because they were wiped out by the pandemic as well. So sometimes when you talk to suppliers at the start, they’re telling you Yeah, we can do that. Or when we talk to their people here, they were like, we’ve never built a mainstage inside the tent before. So you know, your, your your kind of, you know, that’s part of trying to innovate or trying to make good of the venue like this, because it gives us it gives us you know, in terms of vision, it gives us the scope to grow into something much, much bigger in the next four years. The mainstage outside is good, because everyone crosses over all the time. But it is the big white tents. If you want to put your name on it. It is Vegas, it costs 100 grand. Just to give some perspective here of the pain of doing something like that. So no, we won’t be doing that again. And so next year, we have the next ballroom next door. And again, for context, these two ballrooms are the largest pillarless ballrooms on the planet.

Trish 4:25
Really? Yeah. It’s a lovely space. And I think for Mervyn, I don’t know, maybe you can comment on this because you go to a lot of events to just the way that you vision and set this up is a different experience because you really have your Expo at the heart of of everything, right. And everything else kind of branches off of that. And so I feel like there’s more interaction.

Mervyn Dinnen 4:50
Definitely, definitely. I think there’s there’s so many events that you can go to, where you can actually avoid all the exhibitors all of them. Just walk around the outside or shortcut where I hear you, you need to walk past and through them. But the way it’s set up as well, you haven’t got the overpowering big names taking up huge spaces, whether it’s small, small, newer companies, or whether it’s obviously well established ones, everyone has taken similar sized spaces except for obviously a small number. And everyone seems friendly. It’s kind of you know, if I can think of some in the UK, some legacy conferences, she’ll say, and exhibitions of UK, where it’s almost like you’re always scared to walk around. Because you know, who’s going to jump on your start talking to you, here, everybody’s smiling, everybody’s happy. And I have to say, you might not be doing the 10 to go. But it was a, it was a very different atmosphere.

Marc Coleman 5:55
It’s great. You can hear the airplanes going over and everything.

Mervyn Dinnen 6:01
In Vegas, and two very different style, keynotes, shall we say?

Marc Coleman 6:08
Yeah. And that’s by design. I think with the dean, you know, he’s a bit of a, he’s kind of like Josh’s HR famous now. And super kind of Uber cool. And coming from Patagonia, because you saw their message last year where the CEO kind of gave it to saving the planet, basically. And what he’s doing a good job. But you know, in the center of all of that we talked about, of course, purpose, but Dean is that pioneering HR, you know, he’s going to get that AI embedded in what they do. So they are ready to take on that. That massive market change that’s going to happen in the next two years. I know, we’ve talked about AI for years, and the vendors have had it on their boots and stuff like that for as long as five or six years, maybe. But that content is just really gotten on our stage now. And I think Vivian was the follow up actor, and she’s lightyears ahead of everyone. Like what an amazing mind. And she’s built two or three HR tech companies on the quiet that most people don’t know about. So now closing keynote is Maurice Kanji who was going to YouTube, I think his TED talk on the AI is fabulous. But that was 10 years ago. So should be in for a good treat as a closing keynote today. So I think you’re right, the thing I’ve heard today, here is community, to your point, Mervyn, about, you know, just that sense of, you know, you there’s a lot of familiar faces and friends here. And I think there’s that demand or the appetite in the marketplace, they want something new. They don’t want traditional events anymore here in the US. And yeah, and I think we’ve, we’ve kicked it up a gear, there’s, there’s different formats here that were test driving, some of them are working, some of them aren’t. But we’re taking all that data back. So for part two next year, we’ll get it right hopefully.

Trish 8:02
What I love is I was doing a session earlier today with some executives around having a growth mindset. And I thought of you immediately actually, because just the way that you are planning all the Alicia, that’s not just unleashing America, but in Paris, right in other locations. It feels like, like you said, you’re testing out some things and it’s okay, if you fail, you’re not saying I have to do something one way and keep it that way for the next 20 years. How have you always been that way? Or how did you get into having your business be in a growth mindset versus a fixed one?

Marc Coleman 8:39
The self like I’m very ambitious. And I think of like when you talk about growth, it is looking at those things that if you do want to make a difference on a global scale, then you do need the power of the community. So, you know, delegates are here for good reasons. Were their number one events going into this year, and probably their only hitori event. So to have them headlining here, but that’s been 10 years in the making. Well, it’s about relationships, right? But relationships.

Trish 9:11
I guess that goes Mervyn, to your point you were talking about. There are so many vendors here that I either don’t know or don’t know much about yet. And it’s it’s the sense of sort of growth and curiosity and wonder, and I can to a lot of events. I don’t get this feeling necessarily.

Marc Coleman 9:28
I had dinner with a company last night that are in our industry for 15 years. They’re their benefits company. They are 800 people, multi-billion. No one’s ever heard of them.

Trish 9:40
Really. Do you want to give them a shout out or no?

Marc Coleman 9:48
MP and business solutions. So Richard Wolff if you’re listening. Like yeah, I’m just to your point. It’s exactly that. So that’s exciting. And I think that is I’ve just come out of the conversation on the future of work. It’s all those different plugins that are available to us. It’s not just benefits and payroll and stuff like that well being is a 2x, maybe 3x. Marketplace, let’s kind of silently just there on the side of all of this as well. So, so I think there’s, there’s those opportunities kind of mapped out ahead of us as well.

Trish 10:23
I got one final question. And then I’ll throw it to Mervyn for maybe a final wrap up question as well. But my final question is, if I’m an HR professional, I’m listening to you now. I’m trying to figure out, why should I come? Why should I come next year? Why should I make a business case for my, you know, CEO, CFO, whoever makes that decision with me? Why should they?

Marc Coleman 10:45
Why should they go? This long list of reasons there, I think, if you look at it from a customer base, two good examples might be and I’ll give you a European example, Loreal, will come to our show, they’ll send their global executive, they’ve 25, maybe to 30 Big businesses part there. They’re not decentralized business, they’re decentralized. They’re very good at buying HR tech, they’re very good at testing it and seeing if it works, and if it doesn’t work, they throw it on the rubber sheet. So they’re very pioneering in terms of HR. And I think, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s a company like that being able to come here, they want access to all the greatest minds in HR, so the influencers, the analysts, so again, that kind of concierge of having access to the greatest minds in the industry, and putting that against what we want to do for the next three years is business, and they just make use of it. Not everyone does that. But I think there’s something there for everyone. There’s the reward like this, the different functions of HR. So I think most CHROs that look at UNLEASH, they’ll first think about their team who in my team should come to the show, and you have 14 different stages to choose from. And if you’ve got a big HR department, then you possibly got 14 different people that you’d like to send. So. So I think, first of all this content, everyone comes to the show to find out what’s working. I always say most people come to find out what’s not working. Because it’s devastating to get stuck in something for six months, or a year or two years, and find out it’s not working. The pain of transformation. And that being the only constant. So that’s number one, I’d say number two, if you’ve got a shopping list, the vendors are here, the solutions are here. And then the breakthrough solutions are here through the startups as well. Right? Those guys are trying to fill a hole in the marketplace, usually pain, and then it’s kind of understanding what’s the trend? Or is my business going in the same direction as the person I’m listening to on stage or what’s going on in the networking on the floor. So you never know where the ideas are coming from. And you can speak the face to face, you can try and get on a webinar or anything like that. But the serendipity of just accidentally meeting somebody here. Who could be your next best friend.

Trish 13:07
I think I met you already today. And I didn’t know before.

Marc Coleman 13:10
I felt that right? Yeah. And and that’s life changing. It’s career changing as well. People find their future jobs here and stuff like that. So it’s kind of morphed into something I never thought it would be.

Trish 13:22
I think too, I’ve seen people where and I’ve had this happen in my past, if you’re maybe you’re worth a certain two or three or four vendors, whoever you’re using, you could come to an event like this and find out parts of the solution you already have that you don’t even know are available to so you can even expand on what you already have. And build it that way.

Marc Coleman 13:40
I think that’s a great call. Actually, I think they feel safer here than they do at user events because it user events, you’ve got to behave.

Trish 13:48
Well and to Mervyn’s point. I mean, you’ve got so many right here in front of you. You could hit several Yeah. Feel like you’re, I don’t know you’re going home with something that’s tangible.

Marc Coleman 13:58
Yeah, there’s an ecosystem at play here as well. Alright, so you’ve got Deloitte, Vizier and Eightfold here beside us, right? So there are two big partnerships on the go or SAP the same way so you know, your to your point, you’re going to find your, your your HR tech stack in here much easier than waiting for the sales guys to call you up at any point to the air and terrorize you meetings and much more friendly here. Right.

Trish 14:28
I’ll throw it to you, Mervyn.

Mervyn Dinnen 14:29
I suppose there there are two things for me. One is very much its content late. I’ve always felt that about your events that you pay a lot of attention to the content and the range of content. And it’s not you know what, why vendors who are here exhibiting might have some input if they have maybe clients on stage. It’s not overpowering. It’s not you wouldn’t know because what people are sharing are the results and this is what we did. This is how it worked. This is where it went wrong. This is what we would do differently next time. And I’m hosting a stage called total experience, which again, is about seven or eight different stages like, and that’s to me recognizing something that a lot of other events aren’t recognizing that we’ve had this shift, particularly in the last 234 years from kind of employee experience candidate experience talking about that. So just the total experience, yes, it’s just one.

Marc Coleman 15:32
We’ll be happy with that.

Mervyn Dinnen 15:35
Career experiences people experience. And one of the things that all the sessions that I’ve posted today is humanity comes out, because people really are passionate to share what they’ve done. And honest to share where maybe they could have done it differently. And there’s, there’s just a real kind of drive about.

Marc Coleman 15:57
I love that. I forgot to mention that we’ve got HR for Good as a running theme now as well. So we’re showcasing that here for the first time. And we’ll be doing that much bigger in Paris as well this year. I love that. It’s good call.

Mervyn Dinnen 16:11
Yeah. And the other thing I would say is the posture of the people. So you mentioned community of analysts influences that people come here just to be here, right? Like they come here because they want to see other people is real warm kind of feet feeling to people hugging and a lot of former.

Marc Coleman 16:39
There’s hugs going on right now.

Mervyn Dinnen 16:44
It’s very, it’s quite warm in humanity, that you feel it in the air.

Marc Coleman 16:52
So we have two things on that. So we can fool our community into thinking they’re happy as well. So there is a rule of validation that you’ve got to do five hugs per day to get the oxytocin going. Yeah, that’s a general. That’s a general rule. So just given one so all we have you

Trish 17:12
Do more I’m totally down.

Marc Coleman 17:14
And the other one is a culture of respect, reciprocal study. And I think you’ve pointed it out earlier, like and asking that question is a few things that people don’t think about my job. It’s not just vision, but you’re because we’re held to account by the industry, we’re in the long game. You’ve got to get it right. You know, you are you’ll have no customers very, very quickly. So I think what I’ve seen over the years, the more you give, give, give give, it comes back. Sometimes it doesn’t. There is a business world out there. Right. So but I think that’s, that’s a strong way of building our community going forward.

Trish 17:55
I think that’s the difference. I think you’re, you’re available, you’re visible, your team is available and visible. We talked about this even last year. The last May when we did this down at the MGM and the team it was just even like being having people walk you to your seat. Hope you find where you need to go. It’s not like pointing you somewhere they’ll take you there. Yeah, right. It’s I love that I love your family sort of feeling when you’re here and, and just everything I know people on radio can’t hear about what our kids see. But the colors and just everything feels warm, inclusive, like you want to be here. So thank you for creating this.

Marc Coleman 18:34
Thank you. Thank you for being here. Great Call. Thank you.

Trish 18:38
So we look forward to hearing what’s happening in the future. In the meantime, where would you like people to go to get more information?

Marc Coleman 18:44
UNLEASH.ai Oh, everything’s on there. The two events are obviously Paris and we’re maybe it’s good to mention that we’re not back here in April next year. We’re moving to May. So we’ll be in May events going forward.

Trish 18:59
My last question for you. What do you do after that? This is a stressful thing. You’ve been planning for months. Do you have any like fun family thing you do? Are you going to Disneyland or what do you do?

Marc Coleman 19:07
I got married on Monday!

Trish 19:13
Are we breaking new?

Marc Coleman 19:15
I walked out the door at two o’clock with Gina on Monday we got married we we went to downtown Fremont Vegas to get a marriage license. Yeah. And Caesars then put us up in the garden.

Mervyn Dinnen 19:27
You didn’t get married by Mickey Mouse?

Marc Coleman 19:30
No, no, we had a proper vicar called Brian. He was absolutely it was really, it was really human. It wasn’t an Elvis impersonator or anything like that. So, so yeah, we’ll probably try and enjoy Friday and then we’re flying home. My two year old is having his birthday on Sunday. So busy man, barbecue weekend, hopefully.

Trish 19:54
I love it. Thank you for spending time with us.

Marc Coleman 19:56
Most welcome. Thanks for having me.

Trish 19:58
Mervyn, this is fun. We’ll be back tomorrow for day two, recording several more podcasts as well. So looking forward to that. Well, thanks for coming with me for the ride. Okay, bye for now.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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