Image of Katie Jo next to a title saying "The HR Big Meet, Feeling the FOMO? Why you need to be there next year"

REBELLION – that was the theme for this year’s HR Big Meet. There were so many highlights, light bulb moments and key takeaways, you couldn’t possibly list them all. So here’s my take on what you missed, and why you should get yourself on the waiting list for next year:

1)   HR people deal with lots of crap

That might seem like a weird reason to recommend an event, but being honest about it is one of the key reasons this event was brilliant!

When you start out in HR, it’s often because you have a love of people. You want to support them, nurture them, and watch them develop. No-one tells you about the stolen sandwiches or bad body odour conversations you’ll be asked to have. (True story – I once had a manager ask me to speak to the guy who kept microwaving fish for his lunch. Yes, really!).

You also have to deal with horrendous challenges and just ‘get on with it’, because that’s what HR do, right? There were stories of harassment, discrimination, belittling behaviour, right the way through to death of a loved one.

These situations all take their toll, yet you’re just expect to crack on (often with no additional support).

The HR Big Meet was the huge hug that everyone needed to know that your support is there. People developed connections and had conversations that went well beyond that room and will continue on for years.

2)  Vulnerability is a positive thing

The HR Big Meet was filled with stories to help people see you aren’t alone. There are lots of others who have experienced the challenges you have, or worse. There are businesses who actively ignore horrendous acts, all because they don’t have the strength to be vulnerable.

And yes, you did hear that right. Being vulnerable takes strength! In fact, to quote Emma Djemil,

“you can’t have power without vulnerability”

The whole day was full of personal stories which showed just how damn resilient you can be, and sometimes need to be in HR. Speakers shared really tough real-life experiences.

I won’t share the details, they aren’t my stories to tell, but there were multiple examples of the rug not just being pulled, but forcefully yanked away. And the amazing thing is these incredible women keep going anyway, and they gave confidence that you can too.

3)  You can do HR differently

There were many people in that room who are leading the way to help people see HR differently. They’re challenging the status quo, not just with business leaders, but with HR professionals themselves.

These people, like Emma Djemil, Sam Eaton, Michelle Hartley, Kelly Swingler, Lucy Adams, and Paula Brockwell are paving the way for HR professionals to see yourselves in a different light. And, importantly, to recognise just how capable, determined, and incredible you are in all the organisations you support.

(Find links for them and other fabulous HR people at the end of this blog).

4)  The HR community is awe-inspiring

Working in HR is seriously hard work, and it can feel isolating. But the wider HR community that goes beyond the walls of your own organisation? Wow!

It’s a support network.

A place where the challenges you face on a daily basis are understood and appreciated.

Most importantly, it’s a community which encourages each other, builds you up, and celebrates the highs and lows of the profession (and there are plenty of those).

5)  HR people swear

Not kidding. Some might do it behind closed doors way more than they do with managers and clients, but they definitely do it.

Why? Because you need to vent too.

The HR Big Meet gave you permission to not only swear, but to shout F*ck this sh*t (or fudge this poop, if that was more comfortable) at all the crap you have to put up with.

All the unrealistic expectations. All the lip service. All the terrible management decisions which are somehow either your fault or your responsibility to clear up. That’s NOT what HR is.

You aren’t the cleaner, you’re the experienced professional. The person who not only knows how to get people out of the messes they’ve made but also knows how to stop them repeating the error in the future (assuming they listen to you, that is).

So yeah, it’s ok for you to roll your eyes, draw sharp breath, and shout FUUUUUUUUCK at the top of your voice. Professional schmessional. This about being able to be you, swear words and all.

6)  The speakers were all amazing!

Emma Djemil had lined up a superb wealth of knowledge, experience, and stories throughout the day. If you haven’t got the recordings, get in touch and see if you can still purchase them. I swear (politely, of course), they’ll change your life!

There’s an entire blogs worth of content from each session, but here are the people you had the pleasure of listening to, and the titles of their talks, just to give you an idea:

Jacqui Jagger – Don’t let a dickhead define your self worth (and other lessons from being fired)

Kameka McLean – No-one is me, and that’s my power

Aime Rushton – Finding your place in a loud and fast world

Tamsyn Allington – Pivots & plot twists

Hannah Sanford – Shit, I have ADHD

Lucy Adams (yes, THE Lucy Adams from Disruptive HR) – delivered the Keynote

Panel discussion chaired by Penny Haslam and with panellists Penny Jones, Marcia Weekes-Spears and Niki Head

Paula Brockwell – Bursting out of the chains of being ‘just the woman from HR’

Claire Roberts – How to have outstanding impact in HR

Michelle Yeoman – Rebellious Momentum


So, there you have it, all the best reasons the HR Big Meet was AWESOME!!


What’s that? The title said seven reasons? I guess that’s the beauty of rebellion 😉


About Katie Jo

If you’ve not read my stuff before, I used to be an HR professional and am now a specialist HR copywriter. I write web pages, emails, case studies, profiles etc. that help you to shout about being you.

Sign up below to get the ONLY HR-specific copywriting email and learn how to build your confidence with words.


Links to incredible HR people:

Aime Rushton – Aime Rushton

Claire Roberts – HR for HR

Emma Djemil – The HR Big Meet

Hannah Sanford – Hannah Sanford

Jacqui Jagger – Beyond Boundaries Coaching Limited

Kameka McLean – Let’s Talk Diversity and Inclusion

Kelly Swingler – Kelly Swingler

Lucy Adams – Disruptive HR

Marcia Weekes-Spears – Marchfield Consulting Ltd.

Michelle Hartley – People Sorted

Michelle Yeoman – Awakened Executives

Niki Head – Niki Head

Paula Brockwell – The Employee Experience Project

Penny Haslam – Bit Famous

Penny Jones – Penny Jones HR

Sam Eaton – Mindability

Tamsyn Allington – Tamsyn & Co