Confessions of a serial SHRM speaker


When you’ve spoken at 20 SHRM conferences, you’ve seen and heard many things!

Many people know Karl Ahlrichs after seeing him speak at local, state, and national SHRM events. For all but 2 of the last 20 years, Karl has been a fixture at SHRM Annual Conferences and returns to Washington DC (his favorite conference city!) to present two (2) sessions this year. During a recent meeting in his hometown of Indianapolis, we sat down to talk about his time as a SHRM speaker and some highlights of his sessions.


In his 20 years presenting at SHRM annual conferences, Karl has been to many cities and heard many speakers. This year’s host city, Washington DC, is his favorite. No where else can you hear a session on the FMLA or an update on the latest from the Department of Labor and then leave the conference and see the Capitol and directly engage with those making our lives more difficult (or occasionally easier!) The energy in DC is unmatched and when fortunate enough to be in town during big events, it’s even higher. Karl was in DC on the day the ACA ruling was released by the Supreme Court and stood outside with the dueling protestors as the ruling came down!

A couple of SHRM keynote speakers that Karl found remarkable were Christopher Reeve whom he described as “amazing” and Madeline Albright when describing her worst moment as Secretary of State kissing Yassar Arafat.

In 2016 Karl is excited to return to the SHRM Annual Conference after a missing Las Vegas last year.  He did not mind missing the conference in his least favorite conference city where messages in the conference about wellness are followed by seeing masses of people sitting, smoking, and drinking!

This year, Karl is presenting two topics. First is Communicating Total Compensation and Benefits to Millennials where Karl will talk about communicating complex subjects to people who do not care! Karl believes that it’s important to know that much of what we in HR have been told about generational differences is now dead and there are benefits to making messages simpler.

Karl’s second session is Advanced CFO Wisdom: The Art and Science of Communicating HR and Benefits with Finance Karl talks about the fact that many CFOs have become experts in the ACA. CFO’s are typically fast learners and are quickly becoming expert in engagement and retention since theses are parts of the HR world that affect bottom line. While many HR metrics are evolving, partnering with your CFO can yield tremendous results to the field of talent management.

Karl shared that he speaks to many different types of groups. Karl is a frequent speaker at CFO, CPA, and engineering groups. When stacked against those groups, Karl will take an HR group anytime describing them as engaged, wanting to learn what works (as opposed to what doesn’t!) and are willing to share ideas about what works. HR audiences also tend to forgive poor platform skills in exchange for good content.


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For the second week of my reflections series, I am reaching back, way back, to develop the question of this week.

So, for this week, my reflection question is:

When you were a child, what did you want to do and did it have any impact on what you ultimately became?

My answer will be posted tomorrow on RollerCoasterHR!

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The first of these questions:

Who is someone who greatly influenced you in your early career?

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A new series with new questions

Over the next few months on RollerCoasterHR, I am going to write a series based on questions that others may want to explore as well. For me, they will serve to help me further define my personal brand and magnify the strengths that we each bring to our personal and professional lives. Not to worry, these questions are neither difficult nor tricky.

My intent is not to answer any of life’s big questions (like who will win a battle between Batman and Superman) but to trigger some exploration and reflection. My plan is to post the question for all to see on Monday and provide my own response to it the following day. Even if this doesn’t trigger public discussion or disclosure, I hope that anyone reading this will think to themselves about how they might answer the question.

Look for the series to begin next week. Until then, stay warm and safe my friends!

It’s time to do some thinking and reflecting.

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