Start Now to Get the Most Out of the Payroll Congress Expo


Veteran Congress-Goer Tells How to Prepare Before, During, After


The 42nd Annual Payroll Congress in Nashville, Tennessee, is the premier event for payroll professionals to learn, network, and let off some steam. Payroll Congress is also home to the world’s largest payroll Expo, attracting more than 85 vendors who unveil the latest innovations in payroll technology and get to better know their clientele. 

For first time attendees, the Expo can be an overwhelming experience where one can become distracted or easily lost in the crowd. With so many vendor booths, giveaways, and networking opportunities, it can be hard to prioritize who to see and where to go.

Veteran Payroll Congress-goer Jennifer Andrews, CPP, Payroll and Tax Manager at SMS Holdings Corp., knows this feeling all too well, reminiscent of her first Payroll Congress in 2019.

“I don’t know what I was expecting, but when I walked into the Expo, it was definitely overwhelming to see the number of booths and how large they were,” Andrews said. “I don’t think you can be prepared for how large the Expo actually is when you walk in.”

As she prepares to attend her fifth Payroll Congress this year, Andrews says she has developed a process to scout and gather valuable information to bring back and share with her team.

“For me as a payroll manager, I want to make sure I’m in compliance and that I have all that knowledge to pass on to my team,” she said. “Over the years, I think I’ve figured out what suits me to navigate the Expo.”

For payroll pros intending to shop for new solutions or just for those stopping by, Andrews recommends the Expo to anyone attending Payroll Congress, as it is an asset you can’t afford to overlook.

“You want to take advantage of [the Expo], so think about anything that’s impacting your department. That gets you prepared to know what vendors have to offer.”


First, Prepare Your Shopping List

Andrews reflects on a previous trip to Payroll Congress when her company was actively shopping for a new paycard and earned wage access (EWA) solution to implement. Before setting off, she gathered all her team members and higher-ups to help her build a shopping list of wants, needs, and non-negotiables.

“I needed to set up meetings to discuss with, not just my team, but with our eFunds manager, our accounting department, and our CFO. From there, we compiled a list of our non-negotiables.”

Andrews recommends attendees use PAYTECH’s buyer’s guides and directories, which lists the various features and benefits of each vendor’s products and solutions.  

“We use those and compare our list with what vendors’ lists offer,” she said.

With a compiled list of vendors and products in mind, Andrews contacts each one to set up appointments to meet with a representative individually during the conference.

“I found it very easy to contact them and set up appointments,” she said. “They’re very easy to talk to and very personable. Each vendor that I met with had no issue meeting with me or setting up a time that worked within my schedule.”


Next, Get Familiar With This Year’s Expo

For Andrews, the first day of the Expo is the busiest. As it can be hard to navigate, she avoids making important appointments with candidate vendors during this time.

“Everybody is excited, and everyone wants to see everybody,” she said.

Instead, she uses this day to acclimate to the conference layout, scout the floor for new products, and check-in with vendors her company already utilizes.

“These are vendors I don’t need to talk in depth to as we already have their products,” she said. “I always ask if they have anything new coming out or anything they are currently working on.”

The Expo is also a great opportunity to explore new or smaller vendors breaking into the industry.

“I know a lot of companies that maybe don’t have the budget to hire the bigger vendors. Some of these smaller ones have great products as well that can really help a smaller company. It’s still great knowledge to keep in the back of your mind.”


Set Up Appointments, Demo Days

Andrews reserves her second and third day of Payroll Congress specifically for meeting with vendor representatives and product demonstrations (demos). These meetings, she says, can be fit in anywhere, anytime during the conference and do not need to be formal.

“Some reps I met for breakfast and some I met during the day between a class when there was spare time,” she said.

These meetings are an important time to set aside for Andrews—an active shopper—to help her take her time getting to know the vendor and the product.

“I don’t want to have a five-minute conversation; I want to have a thirty-minute conversation,” she said.

Depending on her schedule, Andrews says she’s able to fit in up to three meetings or demos a day without cutting into other Payroll Congress activities.

“A lot of vendors are excited to talk, but they don’t necessarily have thirty minutes to dedicate exclusively to just one person,” Andrews said. “The amount of people [at Congress] is just as overwhelming for them as well.”

During this time, Andrews can narrow down her list of prospective vendors and products who either do or do not provide her company’s non-negotiables.

“They made it super easy for me to have one-on-one time so I could ask questions and bring back that knowledge to my team,” she said. “Then we could decide which vendors to set up another call and initial demo with who I thought would fit based on our non-negotiables.”


Final Review, Implementation

At the end of each day, Andrews likes to do a “daily dump” of all the information she has absorbed from vendor meetings and demos to important workshops.

“I’m still a paper kind of person so I still download all my slides and take my own notes,” Andrews said. “I like to jot down little things that will help me remember what I learned during that class. Especially when I was shopping, I was making detailed notes of every vendor I spoke with.”

The week after returning home, Andrews meets and reviews with her team (and all pertinent staff) all she’s learned to keep the detailed information fresh.

“I have another internal meeting with my team, and I say, ‘This is what we’re looking for, these are the things this vendor offers.’ [We cover the] pros and cons of each one, and from there, they are able to review.”

A second round of interviews is scheduled, this time with only vendors in serious consideration for implementation.

“When I came back from Payroll Congress, I only hit up the [vendors] I knew had all the qualities we were looking for. And then, we finally picked a vendor.”

Andrews emphasizes that the Payroll Congress Expo is an excellent way to get updated on the latest payroll information, whether shopping or not. By becoming familiar with payroll vendors, you become a valuable asset to your business.

“If your company comes to you and asks, ‘What is something that you want to tackle or automate?’ then you’re ready to provide that feedback,” she said.

The 42nd Annual Payroll Expo will be open Tuesday, May 7 through Thursday, May 9 in Nashville, Tennessee. Register now at Be sure to keep coming back to the conference website for more information, schedules, and a full list of exhibitors. 

Felicia DeInnocentiis is a Writer and Editor of Membership Publications for PayrollOrg.

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