Guide to spotting rare birds at the PhoCusWright ConferenceNews / OnlineBy Viewpoints | November 14, 2013Share This article was originally published on When 1,200 people make their way to Fort Lauderdale for the PhoCusWright Conference next week, I’ll be among them.NB: This is a viewpoint by Rod Cuthbert, CEO of Rome2rio and founder of Viator.I go to the conference for the people; not just to catch up with friends and business associates, but to see the fantastic array of quirky, idiosyncratic characters who are also conference perennials.Now, after 12 years of careful study, I’ve created a simple guide to help both newcomers and veterans spot these rare birds, who can only be seen together in captivity on these three days each year.The CheapskatesCouldn’t get the registration fee together ("$3,900? Are you kidding?") so they check into nearby lodgings, then lounge innocently in the conference hotel lobby, reading email, taking meetings and gatecrashing after-parties: “I left my badge in the room!”An even quirkier hybrid of this species watches the live stream from home and later claims to have been there.They call their friends the following week with a pre-emptive strike: "Where were you? I looked everywhere!"The NotetakersHaving convinced their bosses that attending is necessary if they are to "keep up with industry peers," they sit in on every session, taking copious notes on an iPad, certain that their reports will be read widely back at HQ.They claim to find every presentation "exciting". Always exhausted by day’s end, they skip the free cocktails. Of course they change their minds on Wednesday - it’s the last night, after all - and drink far too much, lose their iPad "somewhere in the hotel bar, or maybe by the pool".Everything ends well: back at HQ, no one asks for the notes.The BarmenOften viewed with disdain by other conference-goers, this species is not well understood. They only venture into the main hall for the opening and closing sessions, opting to preserve their energies for the evening shift.Their reliable presence in the hotel bar is a simple and effective ploy that never fails to bear fruit, as their consummate drinking skills, pleasant demeanour and flexible expense account wins over new business partners each night.The Entourage MenOnly ever seen in the company of a small posse of staff, including a PR flack, an attractive millennial and a vice president of something.They walk briskly through public areas to avoid being accosted by former employees, journalists or the CEOs of unknown startups.Often featured as keynote speakers; on stage they stay on safe ground, preferring to reply "I’m not able to share that" to even the gentlest questions.Unless scheduled to speak on Thursday, they make a point of flying out Wednesday evening, citing "prior engagements".The Important PeopleThey spend most of the conference in their hotel rooms making phone calls, or "working with the exec team to finalize next year’s budget". They emerge only for meetings with key partners and "Invitation Only VIP events".When they discover that junior members of staff are at the same function they leave early, citing an urgent need to "call Europe".Asked to describe the conference, they say: "Unmissable".The SalesmenThey email weeks before the conference, eager to set up a meeting because "our managing director is very keen to meet you".They seem aggressive but back off the moment you reveal your corporate policy on outsourcing. They’d like to get your business card anyway, and arrange to meet for just that purpose. "My Managing Director will also come along, if that’s okay."The TechnophilesHead down throughout the entire conference, never fewer than twelve windows open on their desktop. They tweet constantly, and are careful not to confuse commentary on the conference with ongoing discussions on Trekweb.Frequently ask questions of the keynote speakers, typically referencing proposed changes to IATA regulations; no one in the audience understands their questions, which is "understandable; it’s a complex field".The EuropeansSpot them outside, smoking Gauloises between sessions. The most elegant of conference species: men wear bright pants, women favor gold jewellery and Fendi handbags.They seem mildly amused by the conference food, and confused when American delegates rush to dinner at eight. Their accented English is delightful, yet they’re happy to switch to one of the other three languages they’re fluent in, if that would suit you better.The Conference StaffHundreds of them; they pop up when least expected, sporting secret-service earpieces, connected to an unseen but obviously higher power.Apparently unflappable, their devotion to keeping the conference running on time is reminiscent of the Swiss Railways.Watch out for some nervousness this year: with their beloved leader finally retired, will they maintain the famously palpable buzz?NB: This is a viewpoint by Rod Cuthbert, CEO of Rome2rio and founder of Viator.NB2: Thanks to Timothy O’Neil Dunne, Laura Davy and Aimee Koval for help with the categorization of certain species. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely intentional.NB3:Bird laptop image via Shutterstock.