A few weeks back I had the good luck to attend HCI's Strategic Talent Acquisition conference in Boston. Since it was in our backyard, I figured I should head over to see what I could learn, and I'm glad I did!It's taken me a few weeks to write down a few thoughts from the conference due to travel, but I wanted to share some of my key learnings and takeaways from the conference:Attendee makeupFirst off, I noticed that many of the conversations I was having were with HR professionals from "smaller" (<1,000 employee) companies. I made of note of this because typically at a conference with a >$1k ticket and associated travel fare (there were attendees from Alaska, Seattle, you name it!) the majority of attendees are from Fortune 1000 companies. I think it's an incredible testament to the strategic role HR is playing that smaller companies, with smaller budgets, are still prioritizing spending significant dollars on getting their People teams to the right conferences.Recruiting is SO importantMatt Charney said it well in his keynote when he noted that recruiters have incredibly important jobs. You're literally helping guide someone during one of the most important decisions they're going to make in their lives: where to work! It gave me a lot of motivation to hear him talk about the work HR (and maybe us as vendors helping HR?) are doing to help build people's lives in this way.Recruitment Marketing is Very Top of MindPipelining, CRMs, talent communities... whatever you want to call it - this aspect of recruitment marketing is getting more attention than ever. With variable hiring plans, candidates' lack of drive to complete an arduous apply process, and the advent of talent nurturing, the idea that recruiting is marketing is very much alive and well. I personally was interested in how many companies are interested in these tools, but are in the SMB size range (as opposed to the large businesses that have more typically adopted these tools).Employer Branding Isn't Too Far BehindOne of the keynotes focused on creating a "bold" employer brand. The main message for me here was that differentiation amongst your talent competition is incredibly important and companies need to think a lot about the story they're telling throughout the candidate journey. Employee stories continue to be a big theme here.The Conversation Around Analytics Continues to ExpandAnalytics is another area that is always talked about. My interest was particularly piqued by organizations who are hacking together reports in order to create a layer of business intelligence on top of what they are doing to execute on their strategies (wow, that's a lot of buzzwords!). While I still believe HR is way behind in this area, it's encouraging to see it continue to get attention, see the ball move forward, and see more organizations get actual value out of their analytics efforts.Overall, it was a great conference (2nd year in a row that I've gone), and I can't wait for next year!