When you attend a conference, are you a Ryan Howard or a Jim Halpert? An Andy Bernard or an Erin Hannon? In this week’s blog post, Kevin Shanley breaks down the five types of people you’re most likely to run into at any conference or meeting, and how to engage them, illustrated by the lovable characters from The Office.

the office

Whether you are attending Comic-Con in San Diego, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas or the National Planning Conference, there are certain types of attendees you’re sure to come across in your travels. Many people may not know this, but I am a huge fan of the U.S. version of The Office. As I’m still coping with the fact the comedic gem will no longer be gracing our television screens come fall, I’ve compiled a list of the five people you’re likely run into at any meeting, illustrated by characters from The Office:

Erin from The Office

The Newbie (Erin Hannon) – Erin Hannon joined Dunder Mifflin Scranton in season 5. Replacing fan-favorite receptionist Pam Beasley-Halpert, Erin brought excitement and an “everything is new” attitude to the position. I’ve come across countless first-time meeting attendees, they’re always a little nervous and not sure what to expect. Help ease the transition by providing thorough information before, during and after the conference.

How To Spot Them: Newbies can usually be found intently reading their welcome packet, arriving to sessions 15-minutes early and asking fellow attendees “Can I sit there?”

How To Engage Them: If you are able to determine a first-time attendee upon registration, schedule a quick 15-minute touch base with them, pre-conference, to learn about their goals for attending. It will help make sure the conference is delivering against these expectations, as well as provide the newbie the opportunity to ask any questions they may have in advance of the meeting.


The Enthusiast (Dwight Schrute) – Dwight Schrute could be called “Mr. Dunder Mifflin.” During the course of the series, everything Dwight does is for the betterment of the company. I’ve found that a handful of really enthusiastic attendees are always a key to a successful event. Many enthusiasts can be found at topic-specific meetings, they help keep morale high and create genuine and lasting connections.

How To Spot Them: Enthusiasts are usually the first to sign up for an event and can often be overheard in discussion about why they continue to return to specific meetings every year.

How To Engage Them: Capitalize on the enthusiasts to enhance your next event. Enthusiasts are the best natural ambassadors, so enlist them to promote and share the news of your event with their networks. Or, you can ask them for testimonials to use in your marketing purposes. Create opportunities for your enthusiasts to volunteer at your event. Many enthusiasts are repeat visitors and, with a couple of meetings under their belt, are happy to assist in registration, staffing or coordinating of additional details to enhance the overall experience.

Jim from The Office

The Seasoned Veteran (Jim Halpert) – Dunder Mifflin salesman Jim Halpert was a staple throughout the series’ run. An experienced professional, Halpert often had a “seen it all before” attitude, which was evident in his sarcastic looks to the camera and pranks throughout the show.

How To Spot Them: Believe it or not, seasoned veterans can usually be found loitering away from conference gatherings. Having attended many meetings, they can usually cherry-pick the activities they wish to participate in during their stay.

How To Engage Them: Keep this group’s attention by offering panels for advanced subject matter. Or, utilize these veterans during the planning process. Multi-time attendees can provide valuable insight to planners on what is working and what isn’t, which will only help strengthen the appeal of your event.

Andy from The Office

The Networker (Andy Bernard) – Andy Bernard first appeared on The Office in Season 3 when Jim Halpert relocated to the Stamford branch of Dunder Mifflin. Throughout the course of the series, we watched Andy network with anybody and everybody to further advance his career, which ultimately peaked when he took over the Scranton manager role that was vacated by Michael Scott.

It’s my experience that you’ll run into Andy Bernard everywhere. The trend of networking as a primary function is not going anywhere, mostly recently noted by a study from the National Conference Center which states that connection – not content – is the new king of meetings.

How to Spot Them: Networkers have gigantic smiles and cardholders full of both personal and business cards to connect after the conference. They can also be seen taking notes on the back of received business cards as reminders of conversations they had during the conference.

How to Engage Them: Keep the networkers in mind by providing ample time for attendees to meet each other, whether that be through a sponsored cocktail hour, one-on-one interviews or small break out groups.

Ryan from The Office

The Technology Pro (Ryan Howard) – Ryan Howard is always up to date on the newest trends and social networks. In season 7, he launched WUPH.com, a hub to connect users’ social networks. Ryan Howard is most often manifested in the millennial generation. Looking to be connected 24/7, these attendees want to catalogue the information they learn, as well as their presence at the meeting on every available portal.

How to Spot Them: You can easily identify technology pros by the tops of their heads – that’s likely all you’re going to see of them! Taking notes on their tablet, while listening to a TED talk on their iPod, this group is always chatting about the latest news from Silicon Valley or checking in to each individual conference room on FourSquare.

How To Engage Them: Help control these conversations by providing a speedy and reliable Internet connection and by sharing appropriate web addresses, hashtags, and social profiles with the attendees.

Your Turn: Are there any other types of personalities you run into at meetings? If so, what character from The Office would they be?