Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Best Reason to Attend Conferences? A Black Swan May Await

I am literally on a plane right now flying back to San Diego from New York after attending this week's online video industry version of Coachella -- Streaming Media East -- one of the premiere trade shows. Plane time is always a great time to read ... and reflect. And, my reading this time is Nassim Taleb's thought-provoking book "The Black Swan". It was highly recommended to me -- and I, in turn, highly recommend it to you.

Here's the connection to the title of this post. Sometimes, I question the time and financial commitment to attend an industry trade show -- especially since there are so many. And, frequently, we see the same people (insiders), have the same conversations (with insiders), and hear the same pitches (from insiders). I am not discounting the importance of that -- or building relationships via scheduled meetings with partners and potential partners -- but, we all do a cost/benefit analysis in our minds about our decisions "To Attend, Or Not To Attend?" Yes, THAT is the question.

But here's the best reason to answer this question in the affirmative -- and the best reason I have found to attend these shows. (And here's where I tie it back ... rather inelegantly ... to Taleb's "The Black Swan"). The answer can be found in one word ...

Serendipity.

The chance meeting. The chance conversation. The chance discussion with a reporter that sets off a chain of positive events.

By attending such events -- by simply getting "out there" -- you maximize your exposure to potential events that may change the course of your business ... and ultimately your life. As grand as that sounds, I really believe it. And, I have seen it.

So, back to the Streaming Media East conference. Yes, my company, Sorenson Media, had a major presence on the show floor -- good visibility for sure. Yes, we also were a major sponsor of the event this year -- again, good visibility for sure.

But, the most compelling moment for me was a serendipitous encounter at the event. As I was awaiting a car to take me to a night-time sponsored event (a Mets game ... which was great, by the way), I noticed a man next to me and naturally assumed he too was waiting to go to the event. So, I asked him if he wanted to enter the car taking us there. But, he wasn't standing there at all to attend the event. He wasn't even aware of the event. He simply was outside having a smoke. So, we had a good laugh. And, then -- and here's the great part -- we introduced ourselves to each other (since we had never met before) ... and realized that we had in fact previously emailed each other about a potential business opportunity (although that was quite some time ago and was on neither of our radar screens -- but, it now was)! Why? Because we both simply were there!

So, what happened next? I, of course, invited him to join us at the event. He serendipitously had no plans, so he did. We got to know each other and each other's business goals at the event -- because we could. And we also met earlier today for continued follow up discussions -- because we both see the possibilities.

Now, nothing may come of this from a business perspective. And, it is highly improbable that this chance encounter will lead to a company-changing positive black swan event (i.e., a black swan is, by definition, a highly improbable event). But, because both of us were "out there" at this conference, and because we had this chance encounter, there is the POSSIBILITY that something may come of it. And, in fact, there is a POSSIBILITY that something very interesting may come of it. In other words, a black swan.

If you put yourself in a position to have a higher frequency of black swan opportunities, then you are more likely to experience that black swan event.

And, that's how much business success happens. From putting yourself out there. From reaching out to many. From trying to make things happen. From being open to seemingly random events in your life.

From serendipity ...

I firmly believe that THAT is an essential ingredient of any successful story in life (both professional and personal). Maybe someday I'll write about how serendipity thankfully led me to my wife (that was the essence of my toast to her on her recent milestone birthday).

So, as Taleb exhorts us, "Go to parties!" (trade shows and conferences, in our case ....) Go chase the black swan!

USA Today Features New Sorenson 360 v2

Yesterday, we officially launched Sorenson 360 v2, our new online video platform (OVP) with the enterprise's needs directly in its sites. I am pleased do to say that the reviews to date have been universally positive if not downright effusive. And, as I drink my coffee this morning in NYC, I am looking at page 2C in today's USA Today, I am reading an article that features Sorenson 36o v2 front and center as a compelling solution for video on the iPad, among other things. And, take a look at the accompanying graphic (click on this link).

Not a bad way to start the day ...

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