I’m the queen of helping vendors put on better conferences, but nobody asks me to touch the obligatory CHRO panel.

That’s too bad.

A CHRO panel looks the same at nearly every event. The interviewer always asks Chief HR Officers about policy and culture with an eye towards a “holistic bigger picture” that is never fully described nor understood by the audience. And the answers are always self-important and vague.

“You could be a CHRO, too. First, you have to be strategic and have a relationship with the CEO.”

Yeah, okay, I’m out.

If I hear one more CHRO talk about data or STEM or predictive analytics, I might implode. They never speak of the great teams around them who make it possible to have access to technology. They never talk about the challenges they face on a daily basis. And they never tell the audience how to get promoted.

So I’ve been doing some thinking, all conference season long, and here are the questions I would ask of a CHRO panel.

1. Ask questions about career journeys. How did you get your job? Do you need the MBA from a prestigious school to be the CHRO? Do you have any HR certifications?

2. Ask about mistakes and failures. What’s an important lesson from your career that you would share with an aspiring CHROs?

3. Ask about being scared and overcoming fear. How did you overcome anxieties and self-doubt? How and when did you talk about money?

4. Ask what they’d tell younger versions of themselves. Is this a good career?

5. Ask about managing up. What’s the biggest way an audience member can impress their CHRO?

6. Ask about professional development. How can the audience members get promoted? What are three things they can do this year to improve the chances of getting a raise and promotion?

7. Ask reflective questions. Do the CHROs regret choosing quiet and unglamorous jobs with impact over prestigious jobs that people covet?

8. Ask about grit. What’s the worst HR job they’ve had? How did they endure?

9. Ask about optimism. What’s the best job?

10. Ask about confidence. How did you turn your biggest challenge into a win?

Nobody learns how to be a better business partner and improve culture from a CHRO panel. Give the audience something meaningful and specific, and they’ll love your technology company for providing a world-class opportunity to hear the truth from influential people.

That’s a panel I would pay money to see!


  1. Totally agree. I sat on a Philly SHRM panel a few weeks ago and it was (thankfully) structured like this. HR attendees get more out of the personal experiences than flavor theory of the month.

  2. Great questions, Laurie. Clearly, you would be great moderating panel of CHROs by just asking them what you listed here.

    I’d pay money to see this panel, too. If SHRM were on the ball, they would have a session like this in place of some celebrity or author at the June conference.

    That’s probably why it will never happen …

  3. Well stated…my filter has always been – SWWC. If we stop before replying and ask – ‘So What Who Cares’ before speaking everyone gets their money worth. Sorry I’ll miss your presentation, my only week off among a 10 HRTech show schedule. Living here in B’ham I would love to stop by and hear you. Love to also get your thoughts on “queen of helping vendors put on better conferences,’ Ward and I just set up 700 vendor2vendor meetings at the TAtech.org congress…perhaps you can help at the fall event?

  4. Great points. I think that has to be the job of the moderator, or whatever you call that person. A good one will happily put panel members on the spot and point out that they are just giving the latest repetitive statement on predictive analytics that is not going to fire anyone up. Sounds like you need to be the moderator! Hope your cat is doing ok.

  5. Thank you for this post Laurie. Hopefully your insights will help! Question 7 is loaded–I’d be curious to know what they did to make an impact.

Comments are closed.