Last week DirectEmployers Association Members and staff journeyed to Scottsdale, AZ for the DirectEmployers 2012 Annual Meeting & Conference (DEAM12) which took place October 24-26. The destination alone was enough to stop anyone in their tracks, but despite the temptation of two 18-hole championship golf courses, a premiere spa, 5 swimming pools and 7 tennis courts, Members and guests packed all of the sessions at this year’s event.

Lots of new ideas were implemented for DEAM12, thanks largely in part to the dedication of several volunteer committees comprised of DirectEmployers Members and staff. The Program Committee worked hard all year to develop three separate tracks: compliance, recruiting, and leadership. Since there was so much incredible material, I’ll be sharing a blog post per each track over the next few weeks.

It was imperative to the team for sessions to be led by actual practitioners, who could share personal experiences, successes and lessons learned. As a result, several Members and partner organizations presented, many of which experienced their first speaking debuts (although you would have never guessed)!

We provided a mobile service that attendees could opt-in to for SMS alerts regarding the conference. People could text DEAM12HELP for assistance throughout the conference. Attendees were encouraged to hop in the photo booth for fun pictures and to share if they were hiring or offering job seeker advice.

Our Executive Director, Bill Warren, received the inaugural WOW Award, for his contributions to human resources technology innovation. The award is named in honor of Bill, as his initials are WOW (William O. Warren). The award will be given every year from this point forward. It was announced that the DirectEmployers 2013 Annual Meeting & Conference will be the first time we have an official Awards Ceremony.

A distinguished panel of judges will be selected to review the entries and choose the winners. (If you are a Member interested in participating on the awards committee, or interested in submitting an entry, please email to receive more details.)

Members learned about our partnerships with the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) and the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). NACE’s Marilyn Mackes presented an update on our partnership as well as powerful data to help our Members refine their internship programs.

National Labor Exchange Director and Assistant Executive Director of NASWA, Pam Gerassimides, discussed some of the work being done to improve OFCCP relationships for employers with State Workforce Agencies. NASWA hosted a panel discussion about the National Labor Exchange (NLX) and Pam moderated a panel about partnering with your State Workforce Agency.

Our two keynotes both spoke on Thursday. Our sports fans recognized our first – ESPN SportsCenter anchor Sage Steele had the room roaring in laughter but empathizing with the challenges that come with working while trying to raise a family. Sage shared the many hurdles she faced in the pursuit of her dream career.

Our other keynote was the inspiration for the film 127 Hours, Aron Ralston. If you don’t know his story, the quick version is he was pinned by a half-ton boulder for nearly a week in a remote three-foot-wide slot canyon in southern Utah. He narrowly escapes death by severing his right forearm with a dull pocketknife. Aron focused more on how that experience changed his life, or as he puts it, “Our boulders are our opportunities.” That was only one of many quotes that impacted attendees. Afterward, Aron stayed for a meet & greet at which time attendees were able to get their photo with him.

The highly anticipated mystery event followed that evening. Members piled onto buses into the dark desert night to Los Cedros, one of the finest horse training facilities in the world, which transforms to a world-class event site. The facility is designed similar to a Moroccan citadel with tall walls enclosed by huge doors and architected in such a way that you can enjoy the rich surroundings of spotless and odorless horse stalls and the lush courtyards. A brief and educational horse show followed by an amazing dinner provided attendees a new found appreciation for horses and their talented trainers.

The conference came to an end on Friday morning, after a few more informative sessions. Many Members and guests took advantage of the post-conference excursions such as jeep tours, golf and shop hopping.

I was hardly able to scratch the surface in this post, but I will be sharing more details and key takeaways from each track over the next few weeks. Until then, you can search for our hashtag #DEAM12 on Twitter to see all the great conversation that happened before, during and after the event, or read this review from Marylene Delbourg-Delphis, CEO of TalentCircles. My sincerest thank you for everyone who attended and contributed to this year’s conference.

Members: Photos will be posted at over the next few weeks. Headshots will be emailed also upon receipt from the photographer. If you have some that you would like to share, please email Presentations have been posted in the Pipeline at:

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