It's Good to be a Conference Crasher
I've come up with many business ideas for my startups by attending conferences that are outside my realm.
Jack D. Hidary built his career as an entrepreneur in the finance and technology sectors and is currently focused on clean energy technology and policy. In New York City, Hidary was a leading proponent of switching over the taxi fleet to high mileage hybrids. Hidary serves as Chairman of SmartTransportation.org, a non-profit dedicated to promoting clean energy and transportation policy in the US.
Hidary studied philosophy and neuroscience at Columbia University and was then awarded a Stanley Fellowship in Clinical Neuroscience at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Under the fellowship, Hidary conducted research in functional neuroimaging using techniques such as
positron emission tomography (PET) and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to study brain and disease states.
Hidary serves on several boards including BT Global Services and Trickle Up. A frequent keynote speaker, Hidary has presented at venues including the business schools of Yale and Columbia.
Committed to community and philanthropic causes, Hidary has received several industry and community awards as well as being recognized as a Global Leader of Tomorrow at the WEF, Davos. Hidary is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and of the Clinton Global Initiative.
Most people follow a basic routine throughout the day and throughout the week. They get up in the morning. They have their workplace. They interact with various people at work, and then of course, have family and friends in the evenings and on weekends. That's great, but you can actually enrich your life a whole lot more by thinking about all the kinds of people and all the kinds of ideas you can encounter outside of that routine. If you just stay in that routine all the time you're probably limiting yourself to the range of possibilities in your future life.
Think about your future life as a range of pathways, as many, many different pathways in a forest, and there are many, many trees around. You can't really see the end of those pathways. You don't know where each pathway will follow. What you do know is that if you just stay on the same pathway every single day that's going to be a pretty predictable pathway of what you're going down now.
The question is, what would happen if you discovered, in the thicket, some new pathways that maybe haven't been traveled too much before? When it comes to our lives in terms of our physical space, there are many, many ways to actually increase the level of your serendipity, to actually influence the amount of serendipity you're going to encounter in your physical life.
One example I call conference crashing. This is something that everyone can do, everyone can try. It's really, really fun, and it can lead to all kinds of crazy experiences. For example, in your own city where you are living, or if you're traveling to another city for business or for pleasure, find out what conferences are happening that have nothing to do with your area of expertise, nothing to do with your work, nothing to do with your current hobbies and interests. For example, you might find that there is a medical conference happening locally. You might find that there is a scuba diving equipment conference happening in the hotel that you're staying at in Orlando when you take your family to Disney World. You might find some other crazy conference about photographic equipment or the future of film.
Just the fact that it's not your area of expertise and not your particular job doesn't mean that you can't attend that particular conference. What you want to do is go ahead and try to get into the conference. Often, there is some kind of guest pass or other way to get in there. Once you're there, what you find is that everyone is speaking some shamanistic language. What I call the people who attend these conferences on a regular basis, these trade conferences, these industry conferences, I call them the shamans or the priests. These are the folks who have been in that industry for 10, 20 years. If it's the film industry, they talk about gross and net and points and all kinds of things. If it's the mining industry, they talk about all kinds of things related to mining. They have their own jargon. They have their own way of speaking about things.
Initially, for the first few hours certainly, and maybe even for the first day, it's going to appear like you've landed on Mars. These folks appear human, and yet, are speaking a completely different language, and are concerned about all kinds of things. It's the very fact that you're an outsider that gives you an advantage. The very fact that you're an outsider, you can see their problems in a new way. I've come up with many business ideas for my startups by attending such conferences that are outside my realm all together because they're inside the thicket. They can't really see the big, big forest in terms of how to maybe solve their problem in their industry with a solution from a different industry.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
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