Interview with Jennifer McClure Part 2: Community Building, HR Influencers and DisruptHR

HRchat host Bill Banham recently interviewed Jennifer McClure. Jennifer is a keynote speaker, social media influencer, executive coach, President of Unbridled Talent LLC and CEO of the awesome DisruptHR series. Jennifer has over 25 years of experience leading human resources and talent acquisition efforts, studying industry best practices, and partnering with senior executives to improve their skills and increase their impact.

Ahead of the podcast release, read part two of the interview:

Bill Banham: Now we are going to turn our attention more towards the wonderful, awesome, fantastic DisruptHR series. 

JenniferMcClure: How do you really feel? (laughs)

Bill Banham: Jennifer, I’ve been fortunate to attend several of the DisruptHR Toronto events, DisruptHR Buffalo, and DisruptHR Cayman. Tell us a bit about DisruptHR. How you first became involved and how, from what you’ve seen, it’s evolved over the last few years. Maybe, if you can, also give us some insights into what’s happening in 2017.

JenniferMcClure: Sure. DisruptHR started here in Cincinnati in 2013. A friend of mine, Chris Ostoich, who is, I call him a serial entrepreneur. He doesn’t like that moniker. He said it make it sounds like he’s crazy. In the sense of the fact that he’s somebody who I love to talk to because you can’t talk to him without him writing down everything and getting inspired and leaving that meeting with how you can start a company. He’s founded several companies and is someone who is really that classic idea person who can take ideas and run with them.

We would typically meet a couple times a year. At the time, he had founded an HR technology company called BlackbookHR, which is now a company called Talmetrix. Just were chatting about what each of us were doing. This was mid-2013 and sharing what was new and upcoming. BlackbookHR had been selected for some awards at the HR Technology Conference. He was saying I just wish more people knew about us. We have Fortune 100 clients. We got a really great product, but even in Cincinnati, people aren’t really familiar with us and what we do. My wishlist was I speak at all these conferences and events. They absolutely serve a need. The content, though, is pretty much the same. That’s fine because people don’t necessary hear the same content all over the world. I really felt there was an opportunity to do something different and wished that there was a way to create maybe an event and bring people here to Cincinnati.

He actually left that meeting. Again, got his wheels rolling and his ideas. He was the community organizer at the time for Ignite events in Cincinnati. Ignite events, if you’re not familiar with those, they’re the five-minute talks with 20 slides that advance every 15 seconds with people from the community who talk about an idea. A little bit of TED, but a little bit different format. He came up with the idea to create an event in our space that took that Ignite format and again reached out to people from the broader community. We put on our first event here in Cincinnati in December 2013. That was the beginning really of both of us having different wants, but he was able to, as he often does, put that into action form and make something happen.

A friend of mine, Mary Faulkner, who lives in Denver attended that event and afterwards asked if she could do maybe something similar in Denver. Chris and his team worked with her on the format and how to set it up. Somewhere along there, I believe Toronto came across it and also took the format from Chris and his team and began to put on events in Toronto. I believe Cleveland was forth. From there, it was the few events here and there maybe over 2014 and then in 2015, Chris and I decided that this was something that people really wanted to do. The talks coming out of the events were really good. Maybe to look at how we can actually make this a thing other than just people hearing about it and maybe toss it over some papers to them, but helping people to really build a community.

Mid-2015, we formed an actual partnership, began to really publicize the talks, built out our website, created community information and materials and opportunities for the organizers to collaborate. Since that time, as of today, we’re at 65 cities and 13 countries across the world. I probably have five conversations a week with people who are interested in starting communities. I expect that at least for the next unforeseeable future, at least, that it will continue to grow. I’m very excited about that.

Bill Banham: 65 cities now. Is that right?

JenniferMcClure: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Bill Banham: Oh my goodness. Wow. That is exploding. That’s incredible. Congratulations.

JenniferMcClure: Yeah. The really cool thing for me about DisruptHR is that it’s not something that I’ve done or that Chris has done. We provided the framework and the encouragement. All of the events are volunteer-organized, community-led events. They do need to follow the format. There is a license, so that we can make sure that people are able to maximize attendance at their event.

The output is really the talks. I think for me .. DisruptHR is .. an opportunity for people who maybe never would either get invited or consider getting on a stage at a conference or event for an hour-long talk or something like that, but they have an idea to share. They’re willing to get up and do that in five minutes. The format means that if you mess up, that’s okay. Hopefully, that just adds entertainment and humor to the event. We’ve seen some really great talks and ideas come from people who never have spoken and may never speak on a stage again, and I think that’s great.

Bill Banham: You mentioned the format there. Would you say that it’s the format that makes the DisruptHR brand very distinct from other events out there?

JenniferMcClure: Yeah, I think I’m learning as this community grows that there’s some things, I’ve always said we’re DisruptHR, so we don’t have rules, but had to come back to we have to really protect that format because we have a community of disrupters out there. If you look at some of the early talks in particular, there are people who don’t use any slides or go over five minutes. What we’ve had to really put our foot down and say is the DisruptHR event is five minute talks with 20 slides that advance every 15 seconds.

I talked to two or three a month who would like to maybe take the DisruptHR brand and put it on top of conference, a regular conference or event or add it onto something. We have to I think be very careful that if I go to DisruptHR in Toronto and then I see there’s a DisruptHR event in Singapore, that I kind of know what to expect. It’s like McDonald’s or Starbucks. If I go to McDonald’s in Cincinnati or if I go to McDonald’s in Paris, I pretty much know what’s going to be on the menu and that the experience is going to be the same. There are going to be some unique things relatable to that community or location, but I know when I see McDonald’s, what I’m going to get.

We’re trying to really figure out how to make that the same with DisruptHR while still allowing people to have their own flavor and culture in the events. For example, we’ve had DisruptHR Montreal and DisruptHR Grenoble France. Both of those events are in French. I’m excited. Those are our first non-English-speaking cities. Obviously, they wanted them to be called DisruptRH because that’s the way it is in French. Those are things that I think we can bend on, but the format is what we’re really trying to keep consistent amongst the events.

Bill Banham: Thank you. You talk a lot about the importance of building and maintaining professional relationships. In fact, if one goes to your LinkedIn profile, it’s one of your first statements that you make. How has this attitude of being open and receptive to the general community helped you grow the DisruptHR series across the world?

Jennifer McClure: That’s a good question. I think just in general in my career, I wouldn’t be where I am today or have any of the success I have if it wasn’t for the relationships that I have. People who have encouraged me, taught me, referred me, provided me business opportunities, etc. Certainly, I want to make sure that I give back to my community as well, so I try to maintain the same attitude with people who approach me and ask for help or advice or mentoring, to do as much of that as I can.

In terms of how that’s taken DisruptHR, certainly with my involvement and that’s a lot of what I share online and talk about many of my relationships are like-minded people. Many of them have actually been people who have organized communities or shared the messages, getting it out to the broader community. I think that’s the benefit of relationships in general. We help each other, give each other a leg up. Then when somebody does something good that’s worth sharing, share it out to our broader networks. I don’t think DisruptHR is where it is today without the relationships that I have, that Chris has, that each of our organizers and speakers have and people in the community.

Every day, again, when I talk to somebody who’s interested in organizing a community, one of the first questions I’ll ask is how did you hear about DisruptHR, and 90% of the time, they got forwarded a video or came across something online from somebody in their network who shared it. The message gets out because people share it with people that they care about. Those people, many of them take it and share it with their networks as well.

Unbridled Talent

Bill Banham: You are a social media influencer and because of that, I bet you get approached all the time by people who want to have you espousing the virtues of their products, their tools, their software, whatever it might be. Could you maybe offer two or three big no-nos and maybe two or three appropriate ways to approach a social media influencer in the space, if one is looking to get a positive response and to build a relationship with you?

JenniferMcClure: I think it’s a challenge. As I said, I’ve benefited from so many people who helped me. I’m sure I didn’t have an existing relationship with many of those people when they originally invested in me. It’s a challenge I think. The common wisdom is you build the relationship first before you start asking someone to do something for you. It’s hard even for someone like myself and anybody I think.

I get email. I just went through my email this morning. There’s two or three in there of people who want to have coffee or an hour-long phone call or want to tell me about their product. If I did that full-time, I wouldn’t get any work done, so I have to find ways to still try to help those people, but I can’t give my personal time to everyone that … One of the emails one somebody who’s wanting to move to the US. His proposition was that he does the same thing I do, and so let’s partner up. I don’t know you. We may be in the same space, but that’s a huge ask of somebody. I want to partner with you and your business that you’ve seven years of developing?

I get that if you don’t ask, you won’t get, but I think that we’re missing a little bit of there is time that needs to be spent in developing the relationship, so how can you do that with someone who’s a “social media influencer” or just an influencer in the space in general? Read their stuff. Share their stuff. Tell them why you like what they’ve written or shared. In my case, I share my whole self online. Like my pictures of my horses. Ask me how [Nahl 00:22:46] is doing. Do something so that you start to come up on my radar would be one way.

Another way would be to start really doing great work yourself. A lot of the people that I look at in my network are people that I’ve noticed, that I reached out to, that I started sharing their content, that I started saying, “Hey, I really like what so-and-so’s doing.” The relationship was built that way because I shared, I invested in them. I think it’s a two-way street. As an influencer, there will be people reaching out to you. They need to really invest in the relationship with you, but at the same time, you got to be keeping your eyes out for companies or individuals that you think are doing great things and can share. Once some of that relationship is built, then I think there’s opportunities to begin in saying, “How can we help each other?” To start out the conversation with “How can we help each other” just almost never works, unfortunately.

Bill Banham: Let’s move away from the social media influences, and let’s speak about speakers. Obviously, there’s a lot of overlap, but to your point, some of the speakers at DisruptHR maybe it’s their first time speaking. Maybe they’re not super prominent people yet. Can you list four or five speakers that you’ve seen at one of the DisruptHR events that had a big impact on you?

JenniferMcClure: I think that’s always a great question. I ask when I do organizer profiles on our DisruptHR blog, I ask them that question as well. They’re like, “I can’t choose.” For me, right now, I think we have over 600 videos that are online on our DisruptHR channel. I’m actually working my way through all of those, so that I can curate the content. I’ve probably watched 200, 300 of the videos. I don’t even know how many. Every day, I’m like, “Oh wow. That was such a great talk. I just love it.”

The one that kind of stick out for me, now and again, and it’s not to the exclusion of many of the others, it’s the first event that I attended outside of Cincinnati was in Denver. A guy named Greg Roche who I believe it was his first public speaking event, gave a talk called “Idea Sex in Talent Management.” It was and is I think everything that a DisruptHR talk should be. A little bit edgy, a lot funny, taking a concept and really fleshing it out and a great presentation. It’s still one of my favorite talks today, talking about how we should really be sharing more ideas in order to innovate and disrupt the future of work. That’s the first one that always comes to mind for me.

Then there was a DisruptHR Toronto event, the second one that almost every talk there was one of my favorites, but two that really come to mind. Ryan Porter who gave a talk called “Wolves in the Workplace.” Again, a great delivery, great talk, but the idea that we are excluding people who don’t have college degrees from the hiring process and how that doesn’t make sense. He equated that to the wolves being taken out of the ecosystem in Yellowstone and then reintroduced. I think, again, a great idea in a compelling way.

Another talk from that event and her name escapes me, but it was about mentorship vs sponsorship. Really flipping the idea on its head of that we really push mentoring in the workplace, but what we should be pushing is people who actually take ownership of someone’s career and sponsor them. She had some great stats and information about how sponsorship is more effective than mentorship.

I guess a forth one to kind of Vadim Liberman who has spoken three times at DisruptHR in New York and will be speaking tonight at their seventh event, I believe. Vadim’s event, he’s got three talks out there online. All of them are funny. He does a really great job. You can tell he’s practiced the presentations. He’s not a speaker. He’s a practitioner, but he really takes ownership of giving a great talk that’s fun and entertaining and also a bit intriguing. He uses great visuals. I think he just owns the DisruptHR format. That’s why he keep getting invited back to DisruptHR New York.


Bill Banham: It would be remiss of me not to do a little bit of a shout-out to a couple of MCs of DisruptHR events that I’ve really enjoyed seeing too. Those would be our very own Tim Baker, and Chris Bailey over at the Cayman event. They (both) help things move along and kept it very entertaining and fun. Jennifer, we are coming to the end of this particular episode. Before we wrap up, how can our listeners learn more about you?

Jennifer McClure: You can find me .. at is my website. On Twitter @JenniferMcClure, so my name just all one word. I’m on all the social media platforms as well. Those are certainly the places where you can find more about me. You can also find content that I share and certainly curating over on and on Twitter @Disrupt_HR.

Bill Banham: Awesome. Thank you very much. Thank you for being our guest today. This has been a great interview.

JenniferMcClure: Thanks, Bill. I appreciate again the opportunity and also your support of DisruptHR events all over the world.

Bill Banham: Long may it continue. That takes us to the end of this particular podcast. Thank you very much for listening.



This interview was the second of a two part article. Read part one, called Interview with Jennifer McClure Part 1: Career Story and What it takes to be a Successful Speaker within the World of Work now.'

Author: Editor

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