Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Oh, The People You Will Meet at a Conference!

I speak at business meetings and I am known as "The Conference Catalyst".  I have delivered nearly 300 professional-level presentations in my career and have attended thousands of events over two decades.  I have seen it all.  Every event is unique, but the people you meet are the fascinating part of going to conferences.

This blog post was inspired by "thought leader extraordinaire" (and one of Australia's top public speakers), Matt Church.  Several months ago we were together at an event and were talking about the meetings industry.

He immediately understood my concept of "The Conference Catalyst", and he gave me several insightful ideas to help promote the program, but soon we were joking about all the people you meet at conferences besides a "catalyst".  He is really funny and his jokes lead me to writing this post.  I have been collecting ideas on "ists" ever since that conversation. (What other "ists" are present at events that can you add?).

(The Conference Catalyst is my program that sets the tone for a business event, - turning average conversations in the hallways of conferences into impactful networking and the creation of long-term, mutually beneficial relationships that lead to more business.  Gatherings from 200 to 4000 can be transformed when the culture is centered around connections.  Does your conference have a catalyst?) .

Here are other interesting personalities that often show up at a conference:

The Conference Pacifist -  This person does not want to witness or participate in conflict, controversy, or hands-on activities.  Anything that makes them uneasy causes them to flee the conference and seek diplomatic immunity in their hotel room.

The Conference Socialist - Wants all the power at a conference to be distributed.  They do not like it when keynotes receive more attention than breakouts.  They can't stand that there are VIP activities. These people love the new trend of the "Un-Conference".

The Conference Masochist - Finds joy listening to speakers who are not prepared, monotone, and have awful PowerPoint.  The talks most of us find painful are their favorite.  Unfortunately they have plenty of joy, as too many events highlight speakers who may or may not have good content but are totally lacking in public speaking skills.

The Conference Narcissist - They cannot stop delivering their elevator pitch - even when nobody is listening.  They enhance the story of their life and "hold court" rather than looking to make any real connections.  They lead with their business card and are sure that people will go home and remember their one-sided conversation.  If this person is a featured speaker you can expect a 60 minute commercial to by their product, service or coaching program.

The Conference Apologist - Is the speaker who starts his or her talk by telling the audience several times that they are not a good public speaker, but instead someone who will simply share their ideas or experience.  They hope to lower the expectations for their speech, but their apologizing reaches the point that nobody cares to pay attention (who signs up to listen to someone who admits they suck?).

The Conference Obstructionist - The long time attendee or board member who crushes every new idea that is proposed to enhance the conference experience or introduce new trends and technologies.  They argue against new concepts because they are not "the way it has always been done".  These people hate change and will work hard to ensure that their event organizers are not allowed to experiment.

The Conference Colonist - Attends their organization's national convention and then brings the best ideas home and implements them at their local chapter.  They spread the best parts of what they saw to new audiences, and help expand best-practices.

The Conference Educationalist - Attends the conference only for the educational opportunities.  They take pages of notes and never miss a keynote or breakout session.  However, they avoid all the meals, happy hours, breaks and anything fun. They get good information, but miss out on meeting new people. When these people are on the committee to plan events they undercut the importance of the human experience.

The Conference Receptionist - Attends all the happy hours, dinners, coffee breaks, etc... but never seems to be able to sit through an entire keynote or breakout session.  These people meet everyone they can on a superficial level, but are never a true part of the overall conference society as they are not engaged in the shared learning experience.  The receptions and parties are only part of the conference!

The Conference Aromatherapist - The person in the audience wearing too much cologne or perfume.  Need I say more?

The Conference Capitalist - Finds a way sign an new client or gets a new job offer while attending a conference.  This person naturally can make money grow on trees, regardless of their actual involvement with the event.  They do this without being pushy or obnoxious, but instead they can create opportunities in any situation.  They do not need to be a vendor or sponsor to do business while at the event.

The Conference Accompanist - The person who attends the event with their co-worker, spouse, or friend and then never leaves their side the whole time.

The Conference Hobbyist - Makes a hobby out of attending events.  They can be found at all types of conventions, conferences, trade shows and seminars.  They love the atmosphere.  They network and learn, but never seem to cultivate any long-term relationships or turn their participation into real business opportunities.

The Conference Protectionist - Often the same as the Conference Obstructionist, but under the guise of preserving traditions.  They want to keep the meeting the same as it always has been, and do not care about attracting new attendees.

The Conference Mixologist - The bartender.

The Conference Communist - Part of the "Power Clique" that is usually made up of board members and former board members.  They ride rough-shot over the professionals who plan the event, complain about everything, and do not make other people feel welcome.  They profess the need of the greater good of the conference community, but hang out in the VIP Hospitality Suite rather than mingling with the regular folk.  The real purpose of the conference to these people is as an annual reunion with their buddies.

The Conference Photojournalist - Has their camera or SmartPhone and is constantly taking pictures of everyone they meet and posting the photos to Facebook and Flickr.  Many have mixed emotions about the Conference Photojournalist,  both loving and hating them at the same time.  They don't want to be photographed, but then later get very excited to view all the cool pics.

The Conference Localist - They live in the city where the conference is held and keep leaving the venue to go to their office or home.  They miss out on being part of the mini-society that is created at an event, but they save on the expense of a hotel room.

The Conference Plagiarist - The speaker who has no new ideas, but instead only takes the stories from other people's presentations without giving credit.  They share no personal experiences, and yet take the jokes and other intellectual property from books and presentations of others and use them as their own.

The Conference Verbalist - Has an opinion about every thing that is said from the stage during the keynotes and breakout sessions.  They are the first one to the microphone during Q&A - but never ask a question.  Then keep harping on their point of view during every break to anyone who will listen.

The Conference Perfectionist - This person wants every single detail at the conference to come off without a hitch.  Wonderful trait in a hard working meeting professional -- annoying trait in an attendee.

The Conference Regionalist - The attendee who is from the area who knows where to find all the best bars and restaurants.  When visiting a new city it is great to know someone from the region if you want to experience the wonderful (and sometimes off the beaten path) gems in a city.

The Conference Chauvinist - The man, often from a traditionally male-dominated industry, who calls all the women executives "honey", "sweetie", etc....

The Conference Projectionist - The audio visual team (we all need to honor, praise and respect the AV professionals, as they are the unsung heroes of successful conferences!).

The Conference Rallyist- Person who leads the charge to ensure that anyone and everyone has a good experience, (even if the agenda is "same old / same old" and mundane).  This person improves the situation by rallying the troops to keep having fun even after the scheduled happy hour ends.  They can often be found organizing a last minute groups to go to a local restaurant, club, sporting event, etc...  (Pair them with The Conference Regionalist and you have some good times!)

The Conference Therapist - That person at the hotel bar late at night who everyone seems to want to talk with.  They listen and always have some good advice. The doctor is in!

The Conference Royalist - The person who stalks the celebrity speakers and industry experts thinking that shaking their hand is the purpose of their trip to the meeting.  They worship those with fame, and ignore all their peers.  They are so excited to meet the celebrities and stand in line for an hour just to say hello.  They find personal accomplishment from having been in the same room as greatness.  However, they miss the reality that real power is sitting next to them (it is the other attendees!)

The Conference Motorist - The attendee rented a car.

The Conference Rhythmist - The one attendee you think should NOT be on the dance floor, but who instead has "the moves".  They dance all night with everyone.  When the band or DJ stops, they want to get a group to go out dancing (see Conference Rallyist).

The Conference Revolutionist - A meeting professional who bravely pushes their company or association to try new things to transform their event into an "industry happening".  These fearless people often face risk by pushing their CEO or Executive Director to take a chance on what might seem like a weird new idea.  They rarely get the credit or recognition deserved for the impact they have on the overall meeting.  They are not scared to fail, as they have confidence in their instincts and experience.  They know that to make an omelet you must break a few eggs, and they are excited by the challenge of helping re-shape a new area of business and professional meetings.

Oh, the people you will meet at a conference!

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections.  http://www.conferencecatalyst.com 


Recruiting Animal said...

This was better than expected but you contradicted yourself.
If you can compose a regular cast of characters every event is not unique

Thom Singer said...

Recruiting Animal-

Thanks for your comment. I have been pondering it for the past half hour, and while some of the cast of characters are the same at all events, each meeting is still unique.

Sometimes contradictions live in my head together. This must be one of those times!