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Are You a Hunter or a Soaker?


I have been thinking about my conference behavior after reading Deb’s excellent conference personality article.

How I operate at a conference varies depending on the location, topic, who I will be meeting and so on, but it seems the conference activity is split into two main “modes” and I would be interested to hear if your experience.

Conference Hunter

These are people on a mission. It could be about meeting certain people, picking up as much schwag as possible, give the talk, get business, promote something, or to learn something that will help with a specific project. In my entire conference history I would say this is the most common as I mainly go to conferences that I am speaking at, and regardless I always have in mind people who I want to meet there.

I imagine these are the kinds of people who feel like they get the most value out of a conference because they have a goal in mind and a sense of accomplishment when they achieve it.

Conference Soaker

As a contrast to the people who are on a mission, the soaker is there for an undirected experience. They might party hop, flit from session to session without any kind of agenda, or just “hang out”. For them the conference is an event to “be at” rather than extract some tangible value from. They might anticipate learning something or meeting cool people, but do not set out to do anything consciously and take things as they come.

There have been a few conferences I have attended where I have very much been in this mode, and I would say this recent SXSW was one of them. Due to my speaking engagements not happening I was kind of there my default rather than with anything business rational in mind. While I did not There is something to be said for having an open diary!

Why Does it Matter?

Obviously you can be a blend of the two. It only matters in so much that I think if you do not know what you hope to get out of a conference, even if it is just to soak up the experience, then you might come away dissapointed. Before you book, ask yourself why you want to go, and then go do that 🙂

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments …

You can read more from Chris Garrett at chrisg.com or follow Chris on Twitter with @chrisgarrett


  • Dave Taylor

    I’m definitely a “soaker”, though since I usually have an informal checklist of *people* I want to connect with while I’m at an event like Blogworld Expo, maybe I’m a hunter/soaker? 🙂

  • Chris

    Yeah that sounds about right, though I guess depends how informal the list is and how conciously you persue them? 🙂

  • Deb Ng

    As you know, I usually have a mission when I attend conferences. Generally it’s to learn and make contacts. However, this year I think I went for the combination platter.

  • Chris

    @Deb – I am always in favor of a combo platter …. MMmmmmm … combo platter …

  • Krista Neher

    Interesting article. I attend a TON of conferences and I think that there are pros and cons to both approaches. I do think that a lot of the value at conferences comes from the informal “soaker” activities. Meeting new people who you didn’t know anything about before the conference. At the same time, it is important to have goals and make sure that you spend your time (and resources) wisely.

    Great post – Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to the next BWE.

  • Chris

    Yeah there is a lot of potential for great stuff if you are relaxed and open to it, but sometimes it can take a while for the serendipity to pay off so we often feel like we have achieved more if we tick off boxes as we go along 🙂

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