Episode 7

Michael Balyasny | Founder and CEO of Attendify

What Do Hybrid Events Mean for Marketers: Interview with Michael Balyasny

Michael Balyasny is the founder and chief visionary behind Attendify, a software that bridges the gap between digital marketing and event marketing. As a product and design-driven entrepreneur, Michael is recognized as an expert in event technology, an industry that’s grown to well over $30 billion dollars.

In this episode, Michael joined LeadMD CEO Justin Gray to discuss how the B2B industry was impacted by COVID_19. They break down the rise of hybrid events, opportunities for innovation and why event success will always hinge on engagement. They also explore ways attendees can make the most of events, whether they’re attending in person or remotely.

Subscribe to the Podcast to receive alerts as new episodes post.

3 Key Points:

1. COVID-19 flipped the event space upside down. Within a matter of weeks, B2B events around the world that had been years in the making were cancelled. Seemingly overnight, the virtual events that had previously been an afterthought became the industry’s focus. This presented a unique learning curve and set of challenges that is still being sorted out today. The silver lining? Hybrid events – a mix of in-person and remote – are here to stay.

2. Engagement is still the name of the game. Organizations will always be after one thing: the right buyer. With in-person events on pause, event marketers have had to scramble to re-create opportunities for personal experiences and networking for sponsors, presenters and attendees. This is where mobile apps shine, helping people connect in trackable ways.

3. The future of events will be a hybrid model. With the world opening back up, people are understandably eager to return to in-person events. But B2B digital and event marketers would be mistaken to turn their backs on what virtual events can offer. Expect to see satellite in-person events and central hubs where people can connect from anywhere in the world. The goal is for virtual attendees to have just as valuable experiences as those attending on-site.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

2:05 – What led you to the event space and what markets do you serve?

7:21 – How have you gained visibility into events to understand the changes that needed to be made?

10:14 – How are you working to create more personalized experiences?

12:49 – How do you quantify engagement in virtual events?

16:16 – When will we return to physical events?

20:35 – How are the lines blurring between digital marketers and event marketers?

29:58 – What was a catalytic moment in your life?

35:15 – Lightning round

42:17 – Wrap-Up: Find Michael on LinkedIn.

Looking for more episodes? Check out more of our best practice podcasts!

Full Transcript

Justin:

Hey, hello and welcome again. You are back on Catalyst season three, which is well under way. So I’m joined by a great guest today who has some interesting perspectives certainly around this topic of rapid change and a bit of that COVID thing that we’ve heard so much about and how that changes down into certainly different industries. Different markets, different organization sizes. I’m joined today by Micheal Balyasny. Micheal is the CEO of an organization called Attendify. And of course Micheal you guys deal with events over there. So really heavily talked about in impacted space certainly from COVID. So excited to get your perspective there. But before we hop into that, first welcome to the show. And we’d love to kind of get a quick intro and background for our listeners.

Michael:

Sure. Thanks for having me on Justin. My name is Micheal Balyasny. I’m the founder and CEO of Attendify. We’re about 10 years into the business, and we focus on event technology. And event technology has been going through a lot of rapid changes like you mentioned. A lot of positive silver linings to it for sure. But a lot of short and medium term challenges as well. So it’s been a tumultuous last couple of months and we expect that to continue. But really my background is more as a product founder so I really focus on what we do, how we do it and executing on the product side, that’s where I feel my strengths are. And it’s certainly been a really busy time, a really productive time for us as we build a whole lot of new stuff for an industry that’s completely transforming.

Justin:

Yeah, absolutely. So first why events? What led you to the event space? You kind of mentioned you’re kind of more from the product side, so I’m assuming there was a light bulb moment or a need that arose around that and thus you went down this path.

Michael:

Yeah, this takes us way back. But for sure, we initially started with the thesis of helping small businesses go mobile, that was our goal. We saw an opportunity when the app store was really just scaling up when you saw a lot of different app builders popping up similar to sort of these early website builders back in the day. And we really didn’t see those tools as being particularly effective in terms of actually helping the business that they were serving. Either top line or bottom line and we wanted to build these really functional, useful apps that businesses would be able to deploy with simple template like solutions. But that really added value to the end user experience.

Michael:

And events just happened to be the first vertical we stumbled into, we knew some folks in the space through my co-founder. They said, “Hey, event apps are really becoming attractive, they make a lot of sense, they help us save money. Take a look at this, we know you guys are into doing something with apps, take a look.” And we did and the more we explored this space the more excited we got about it. And that excitement and interest in events only grew. I mean we all attend events, it’s highly relatable. The goals that attendees have going to events although events are very diverse and there’s a lot of different formats. But the goals that people have are generally pretty consistent, networking and learning. And we just saw an opportunity to do something that would be both template driven and incredibly valuable at the same time.

Justin:

And so what markets do you guys serve today? What’s the kind of size and if there is an industry focus where do you focus?

Michael:

There’s not an industry focus. We have over 2,500 active accounts. We’ve served well over 20,000 events since we got started. And we are a self service platform, so that’s really driven adoption across different industry verticals and different size companies. We do really well with technology companies, we do really with associations and non-profits. But if you really look at the pie chart of the industries that our customer base comes from it’s all over the place. So there’s really a lot of very small slices to that. And that’s something that we like and it’s something that we’ve always thought was missing in the event space, is a more self service, a more product oriented approach. Because a lot of the incumbents in the space are very much for the legacy software vendors, there’s a lot of hand holding, a lot of professional services. There’s a lot of costs involved to getting started with those platforms and that’s always been a differentiator. So we see a lot of different folks.

Justin:

So the very customer focus like that I assume you’ve seen again, areas that have been heavily impacted by COVID where they’re pivoting drastically. And then folks that are probably pretty well versed and mature on digital events. Has that been the case?

Michael:

You know this is a unique crisis I think for anybody in the event space because it affected everybody. And I don’t think there were lots of people pre COVID who really knew now to run virtual events. I mean, virtual events were an afterthought, it never even came to mind before COVID hit to do something for the virtual space. There was never any demand from customers, never any interest in it whatsoever. And virtual events are very different, so when this hit we found ourselves with a product that was maybe 50% aligned to what customers needed. So we had a lot that we could reuse, a lot we could repurpose and reposition.

Michael:

But then we also had some pretty significant gaps and we needed to fill those quickly. So I think now there are people who feel more comfortable running virtual events, but by and large people are still figuring it out. And a lot of our customers are still struggling and still desperate for live events to come back. I think there are a lot of unique challenges with the virtual events and we’re all still figuring it out. And I think the vendors in the space, even the ones who were more focused on virtual when this happened, they’ve got a long way to go as well. I don’t think anybody’s come close to really nailing the experience. But I think we’ve all seen the opportunity and the possibility of doing so and I think we’re all excited about that.

Justin:

Yeah, so we saw kind of the initial dog pile onto virtual events certainly as some of those early in person conferences suddenly went digital and there was some innovations or some value ads that certainly were added there. I think the caliber of content and speakers has been a big focus there, but what are you focusing on in terms of innovation and ensuring … you mentioned some gaps in the product. So I’d love to understand number one, how you got visibility into those and number two, what was the result and the change needed to be made?

Michael:

Yeah, I mean initially we really just focused on gut alone. Building out a virtual platform, we really tried to put ourselves in the shoes of an attendee and that’s something that we’re used to doing. Except now the context was totally different obviously with the event of being completely online. But once we launched our virtual platform and we built something from the ground up as soon as COVID hit. We really started to pay more attention to what the attendee experience was like, where the gaps are in the market. And I think today it’s pretty clear that the networking experience that most platforms offer is subpar. In that I include our own platform in that we have a long way to go.

Michael:

And I think what’s missing is the face to face component and it’s the small group networking. It’s really everything that brings people together, I think we’ve all gotten really good at delivering content, delivering the sessions, live streaming, really figuring the content part out. But now how do you blend the networking experience into it in a way that feels authentic and a way that feels accessible. And a way that doesn’t require jumping through a bunch of hoops and different apps popping up and opening.

Michael:

I think there’s still a lot of streamlining that needs to happen and it’s going to take a little bit of time because the industry was just not ready for this. I mean even if you look at the folks in the live streaming space and anybody doing anything with video on the web, it’s just not quite there. Even Zoom with their API’s and SDK’s they’re playing catch up right now to enable companies like Attendify and others to be able to really use those platforms in a way that is a good experience. I think there have been some hacky things put together, but I think we all see a lot of room for improvement.

Justin:

And so obviously marketing engagement is always the name of the game. We’re looking to attract that right buyer, really get that deep conversation as you mentioned, the networking component, the hallway conversation. Even the breakout meeting and so on are really areas that most people don’t associate it with virtual events. And yet that’s what we have to do in order to recreate that in person experience. I know you mentioned that you guys are still a path that you’re on in terms of serving some of these needs. But how are you thinking about serving those market needs? How do we create that personal experience?

Michael:

Yeah, I mean we’re working on a way to basically one click to connect to anyone through your browser. And we’re starting with doing that for sponsors and exhibitors because that’s been a huge gap where a lot of event planners don’t feel like they’re delivering the value that they promised to their sponsors and exhibitors. And really the gap there is that just having a digital profile really isn’t enough. Those sponsors paid a premium to have meaningful face to face conversations so enabling that one click right through the browser I think is an important step.

Michael:

But engagement generally is a key word that I think is really important because what’s happening now is that these lines between digital marketing and event marketing and the role of digital marketers in producing and running events and really measuring ROI and kind of getting value from them. And plugging that into their other marketing programs, I think that’s a bigger part of the conversation. Because now everything that’s happening at the event virtually is trackable. And obviously understanding what happened at a live event in the past was challenging. I think there were a lot of ways to get at that data and mobile was a big part of that.

Michael:

But moving forward I think the data side once the engagement occurs whatever it is, whether it’s engagement with content, whether it’s small groups breakouts that are happening. Whether it’s face to face attendee networking, I think getting a grasp of what occurred and how that signals intent and how you can use that data to then figure out what your next best action is with whoever the attendee is and whatever your goals are as a business for running the event. I think there’s a huge opportunity to make events much closer aligned to digital marketing in the sense that they are more measurable, more data driven. And that’s been a conversation in the industry for years, but it’s always felt a little bit out of reach. And I think now the pieces are falling into place and I think people can already start to see how that could become a reality. And that’s something we’re really focused on in particular.

Justin:

And in that focus how are … number one I’d love to hear any examples that you might have of folks doing virtual events really well, because I think that’s the question that we always get. What are you seeing out there? What should we be focused on within our event? How do we make that a valuable experience? And then just overall what approach do you guys take to rapidly understanding … again, are you attending events out there just to try to get a feel for what’s working well, what’s not? Talking to clients, how do you quantify that engagement and then rapidly transition that into product?

Michael:

Yeah, I think recently what customers want and what they tell us and what the feedback we get right away is just how well did this work? I mean how well did the basic blocking and tackling of delivering the content and delivering the networking experience work. And I think there’s frankly a lot of challenges out there where virtual events haven’t gone as smoothly as people have thought. And there have been some pretty notable failures and I won’t get into the names, but there have been some pretty big industry conferences that haven’t gone as well as expected. Haven’t delivered the value that they wanted so I think the basic blocking and tackling right is incredibly important.

Michael:

And I think that’s where most customers are focused. What’s really encouraging is that in the last couple of months we’ve seen the conversation really start to shift into what more can we do to facilitate networking in particular. How can we bring people together in ways that feel personal? And I think that, that’s something that is going to continue to be the focus. Because without that it doesn’t really feel like an event. When you’re just watching a number of sessions it’s like you’re watching a really long webinar or you’re watching a series of webinars. That’s just not going to cut it, but that’s where most virtual events have been.

Michael:

And obviously being in the industry for a while and not being new to events we’ve always been familiar with this. Obviously we had a lot of networking tools already built. We were able to repurpose those pretty quickly. So that’s really where we’re investing right now, there’s nothing on our roadmap that’s not either a way for people to connect and really facilitate networking, or that’s not a way to really capture and do something with the data that’s being generated over the course of the event. And the data side is a little more forward looking, but I think since virtual and hybrid experiences are going to be with us for years to come.

Michael:

And I think they should be because they create a tremendous growth opportunity for anybody who’s running an event to reach a global audience. I think we need to really focus on the networking side and that’s starting to become a bigger part of the conversation. But the first few months into this I mean it was really just about getting this done. Making sure it doesn’t fail on you and making sure that this is going to be a pleasant, reliable, intuitive experience for attendees. And that’s what we’ve been focused on as a vendor as well.

Justin:

Yeah, so the billion dollar question that everyone’s asking. When do we go back to physical events? And really obviously just more of an opinion there, but beyond that when we do go back or we start to see those become more prevalent. What do you think changes about even that experience based on this disruption?

Michael:

Yeah, I think the future of events is definitely hybrid. I think event planners and marketers will … that will be a mistake if they turn their back on the potential to really grow their event communities the way that virtual can allow them to do on a really global basis. So I think events will continue to be hybrid, but I think figuring out there’s not going to be one hybrid format. I think there are going to be ways to do this that look very different. There could be a number of satellite in person events. There could be a central hub and then people connecting virtually. What’s really important is that there’s nothing that a virtual attendee can’t do as part of the experience.

Michael:

I think there needs to be parity, and yes there’s going to be a different feeling from attending and event. Just like watching something on TV, a sporting event or attending live, there’s going to be a gap there. But there’s nothing that shouldn’t be able to do as an attendee from a networking perspective, from a content perspective. From connecting with sponsors and exhibitors everything that I would go to an event for I need to be able to find and it needs to feel like its really delivering value for me. Because this again, this sort of stitched together webinar experience that we have today is just not going to cut it. That’s going to lead to the same type of fatigue that you have with endless Zoom meetings.

Michael:

You really need to deliver a different kind of experience. So I think hybrid is the future, I think a lot of these experiences, virtual platforms will essentially turn into community hubs where there’s activity year around. And I think that the subscription model is also something that’s really interesting and something that a lot of events will be exploring where you subscribe and maybe you get to go to one in person event, but then you get to attend all the virtual event’s year around. And I think there’s going to be much more of a community focus moving forward.

Justin:

Yeah, I wonder if the point where we’ve actually capitalized on digital events almost doesn’t become … you mentioned anyone who is attending the event you should be able to do anything that the … or anyone that’s virtual should be able to do what they could if they were in person. But I wonder if that maturity curve isn’t that when you’re virtual you can actually do more than the individual that was attending that traditional conference before. So certainly will be interesting to see how that evolves and progresses from an innovation standpoint.

Michael:

Yeah, I think just to add one note to that because I think that’s a great point. I don’t think we’ll get to a point where the person attending in person is somehow disadvantaged. I think they’re still going to have access to mobile apps, they’re still going to have access to all the technology. So they’re going to have a complete experience and the folks attending virtually will have a complete experience. And I think that, that’s what every vendor in this space needs to keep top of mind and needs to be driving towards. Because we see the potential, we see the opportunity. It’s about delivering it equally and making sure that the person joining remotely feels like they’re there. Feels like they’re achieving their business goals or their learning goals, whatever they’re there for.

Justin:

So there may also be an interesting dichotomy that develops, and marketing kind of went through the same shift. We pulled all of this marketing responsibility in house, marketing used to be essentially a traffic cop. Working with different agencies and creatives and so on. And then we created this huge technology stack and now we needed technologists to run that process. I wonder how well the in person events skill set is going to end up translating to running virtual events. If you aren’t almost going to start to see a different profile of individuals that are succeeding it during really great interactive virtual experiences and the evolution of that talent there. Have you seen within the customers that you’re servicing that they are bringing in different or additional talent to what they previously had to run their physical events?

Michael:

I think they’re trying to at this point make things work with the talent they have largely. But I completely agree with that being a trend. I do think that these lines between a digital marketer and an event marketer are going to blur. And I think the folks that have more of a tactical role in putting a physical event on I think they’re going to need to adapt. And they’re going to need to learn some new skills. At the very least they’re going to be tasked with dealing with live streaming, with different video technologies. And whether that’s studios or that they have to manage or venues where they have crews coming and a lot more streaming than they would have had to deal with in the past.

Michael:

I think there is definitely a lot on the ground that needs to happen, especially as hybrid events come into the fold. But generally I think we’re going to see event marketing and digital marketing really converge in a way that hadn’t happened before. Where events I think were generally considered sort of its own discipline. You had a separate team running that, I think those lines within organizations start to blur. And I think that events become part of the broader marketing strategy in a way that is very direct, very tangible as opposed to something that felt a little bit more arms length before. I think that they’re going to be intertwined in a way that wasn’t possible before.

Justin:

Yeah, so just pivot a bit in terms of Attendify’s explosive response to all of this change. And really what we deal with on the show which are catalytic moments. Before we get into how successful you guys were able to navigate these waters and what you think some of those key culture traits are for organizations that can quickly understand and pivot. I’m curious what even the term catalyst means for you and how you see that kind of manifested itself in your life and in business.

Michael:

Yeah, great question. I think a catalyst is anything that helps us or causes us to pause and really think about what we’re doing as a business, as an individual contributor. Really whenever we take a moment to reflect that almost always leads to action, that almost always leads to certain conclusions that we draw. What’s working, what’s not, what needs to change, why am I doing this, where am I going with this? And I think that a catalyst could be a number of things. I mean COVID certainly was a catalyst for our business. It could be family, it could be friends, it could be colleagues. It could be anything at all, I think we’re all kind of stuck in our day to day and rarely take a moment to pause and really think about things critically. And take a step back and I think a catalyst is anything that helps you do that.

Justin:

Yeah, and yet a lot of organizations really have struggled to again quickly put into action that thought and that pause that COVID has brought. So I’m curious how did that look internally at Attendify in the early days of COVID? As we were just starting to understand that this was really going to be an impactful event in people’s lives for the foreseeable future. What did that look like as you were kind of mobilizing and capitalizing your own team to respond to this outside influence?

Michael:

Yeah, I mean this was unlike anything that I think you can imagine. Because there are not a lot of crisis you can experience as a business that would lead to basically overnight 95% decline in revenue. I mean there’s nothing … I mean maybe short of a war or something breaking out. It’s hard to imagine that and it’s hard to know what to do. And I think the scariest part about COVID was that we didn’t really know what we were dealing with in the early days. And the duration of this crisis still remains a bit of a mystery, we don’t know. Yesterday we had news about the vaccine and that’s great, that’s incredibly encouraging. But we don’t know how long it’s going to take to get that into people’s hands and distribute that at scale. So I think going back to March and April it was a very confusing time. But what we realized as a bootstrap startup is that to survive we had to take pretty drastic action.

Michael:

So unfortunately that meant layoffs as part of what we did. But we also had to pivot the product and reposition who we were very quickly. I mean we had to stop everything we were doing on a dime and go in a completely different direction that we knew very little about. And frankly that nobody knew very much about at that point. So I think it was really in many ways the challenge of a lifetime. This is something that I hope never happens again, but it tested our organization and it tested me and unfortunately there were a lot of … I think the layoffs were always the most challenging part of it because of the human cost. But we basically had to make some decisions quickly to save the business. I mean it’s really in the most traumatic sense of those words.

Justin:

Right. And so after you guys realized that the need for that change then started to take action towards it was it difficult to get the organization rallied around that new direction and get them excited about that change? Or is that something as you mentioned … I found a lot of people who described their businesses as a startup even 10 year into the business tend to refer more to the culture of the environment. People that see that need and are kind of prone to running after it. So what did you find just internally as you were dealing with that change?

Michael:

I think it was difficult for people at first just to wrap their heads around what was actually happening. And I think everyone was dealing with a different set of assumptions. But once it sank in after the first couple of days I was amazed actually by how quickly everyone pivoted towards thinking about a virtual, thinking about the opportunity and working on what we had to work on. And that was actually very inspiring because I was shell shocked. And everybody was shell shocked, but the way we were able to kind of bounce back and refocus. I mean that’s sort of what necessity does to you in a lot of cases, you have to give it your best shot especially when you have roughly 10 years into a business. To see your revenue disappear overnight, that’s bad enough. But to throw your hands up and say we can’t do this or this is too much, I can’t imagine doing that.

Michael:

I think forging ahead and salvaging the incredible hard work that all of us have invested over many years. And doing right by that and seeing at the same time within about a month we started seeing we have some advantages here. There are some things we can do uniquely well in this market that other companies are not positioned for. Once we started … got over the initial shock we saw that there are some things we can really do well here. And we can add a lot of value and we can help our customers through this time because our customers are panicked as well.

Michael:

They’re dealing with event cancellations, they’re dealing with a very stressful stretch of time and a lot of … especially on the agency side, they were also dealing with layoffs, they were dealing with a huge disruption to their business as well. So it became a mission to try to help all of our customers and help ourselves in the process and really add value. And we started really just honing in on what we can uniquely do well in that moment. And that’s where we’ve tried to continue to focus throughout the past couple of months.

Justin:

Yeah. Huge testament I think to the organizational mentality and just the culture that you built over there. Now also Attendify is not your first business. A bit of serial entrepreneurship there certainly. I’m always curious to understand the influences on what you take as your way of thinking right now. I find that often manifests itself in terms of a mentor or just really big catalytic moments that kind of open the mind up to what entrepreneurship takes quite frankly. Do you have a mentor or a moment in your life that you really consider to be catalytic in terms of who you are today?

Michael:

Yeah, so I’m an immigrant and I was born in Ukraine. I came over here we moved to San Francisco, I was five years old at the time. It was still the Soviet Union when we left so seeing my dad struggle early on, I mean going from odd jobs of … he was a janitor at Mervyn’s for a stretch of time, really doing whatever he needed to do to survive. I think that showed me that no matter what I’ll be okay I can always figure something out. But then seeing him really jump into some entrepreneurial projects of his own really out of necessity, I mean he was a physics teacher back in Ukraine. I think that, and seeing him succeed and also seeing him fail I think had a huge impact on my mind set. Where the risk that most people see coming into a new business … I don’t know for some reason I don’t see it as much, I see mostly the opportunity and I think a big factor was watching him growing up and watching him just do what he had to do.

Michael:

And I think also seeing the whole family support him and really roll with the ups and downs. I just became accustomed to those ups and downs and they don’t knock me as hard as I think they do some people and I’m really fortunate to have that example in my life. So that’s something I look at for sure. But I also just love solving problems and I think when you see a problem big or small I just instinctively want to go out and solve that. And I think that you can apply that to big entrepreneurial ideas, you can apply that to problems that are internal to your organization. You can be an entrepreneur in many, many different contexts and I think I’ve just always had that mind set. I’m sure it has something to do with that family history, but I think those are big catalysts in my life that led me down this path.

Justin:

Yeah, just such critical context certainly in those formative years. How do you … because it’s difficult when you’re also working with individuals that maybe haven’t had that same experience or are a bit more risk adverse and so on. How do you try to impart that mentality to the folks around you as well? And stimulate them to be a bit more fluid maybe and a bit more pragmatic in the approach?

Michael:

Yeah, I mean it starts with setting a personal example obviously. And continuing to keep that innovation roadmap, whatever it is for your organization, keep that front and center. Even if that’s not what your customers are necessarily talking about. Make sure that, that’s the internal conversation. You always have to have an innovation roadmap that’s ambitious where you believe and an entrepreneur that if I get this out the door this could 10X my business, or 100X my business. Now obviously the reality of launching anything is fraught with all sorts of challenges and risks and failures and adjustments and iterations. But you have to keep that innovation roadmap front and center, you can’t allow the company to drift into just executing whatever features or whatever the asks are that your customers have. Because your customers, as wonderful and supportive as they are, it’s not their job to see the future.

Michael:

They can certainly hint at it, they can talk about it, they can talk about the problems they’re experiencing and it’s really important to have that voice of customer present in everything you do. But so many companies get side tracked and really just begin to focus on incremental improvements to help close that next incremental deal. And I think that organizationally if you want to build those muscles, you want people to be more entrepreneurial. You have to challenge everyone with the entrepreneurial ideas. And with that vision and really make that the focus. No matter what happens, no matter how enticing that deal might be that you would close if only you just added this once widget. You’ve got to have that discipline and I think that’s been really important for us and continues today. We’re always driving towards something bigger.

Justin:

That’s awesome inside advice. So as we kind of wind down here I’d love to pivot over into kind of what we call a rapid insights area. Some quick questions, maybe a little bit non traditional in nature but would love to kind of take you down that path, if that’s cool with you.

Michael:

Sure. That sounds great.

Justin:

So first and foremost. This is a big topic right now of course, but I’m curious where do you go to get … and I’ll put the word trusted in here. Where do you go to get trusted information these days?

Michael:

Well I spend a lot of time on Twitter to be honest.

Justin:

Oh god.

Michael:

But you know the thing with Twitter that I found it’s really the only social network I get value from. And there’s an amazing entrepreneurial community. There are incredible people to follow there, I mean any world leader, any thought leader they’re on Twitter and they’re reacting to what’s happening in real time. That’s incredible, the key is to really curate your feed and make sure that you’re not tapping into the replies too much and not getting into the weeds of what a lot of bad actors, a lot of bad faith members of that community are posting. And so what I find is a lot of great links to the Atlantic, they’ve been doing some incredible journalism. There’s a lot of great independent journalists who are monetizing through sub stack now. Both in tech and in politics and beyond. So I think supporting independent journalism that way is just a great thing to do and it’s an emerging model that I think is going to have legs well into the future. And Twitter is kind of a gateway for discovering all of that. You just have to have a good mental filter and kind of brush off all the junk.

Justin:

Agreed. What’s your guilty pleasure?

Michael:

In a way it’s Twitter as well. I mean especially in the political season I think we’ve all been kind of glued to that. But honestly social media broadly is something that is a bit of a guilty pleasure. And I think we have to rethink a lot of what’s going on, on those platforms. And I think we’ve seen the costs and I’ve felt them personally where you just find yourself going down that rabbit hole of Instagram or whatever it is. And yeah, it feels good in the moment and it’s good to kind of disconnect from everything else you’ve got going on in your life. But it also takes you out of the day to day in a way that I think is really harmful. So I’ve disconnected from a lot of it, working on getting rid of everything else. I think Twitter will be really the last … the only social app I keep at some point. So trying to get there.

Justin:

Very cool. What is one thing that you would change about yourself if you could?

Michael:

I mean honestly I’m pretty … I think this is something a lot of people struggle with, a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with. But I’m pretty tough on myself, the internal dialogue is sometimes less than constructive. I think it’s tough especially in a difficult stretch of time when so much is changing around you it’s hard to keep that dialogue constructive at all times. So I’m working on that all the time, and I think that, that’s really my biggest focus area is just to make sure that I’m aware of how lucky I think we all are even though we’re going through tremendous challenges now. And keep that top of mind at all times and keep a positive outlook, keep going, keep building. And good things will happen but that inner dialogue can sometimes play tricks with you, so always working on that.

Justin:

Absolutely agreed. I’m curious about the worst job that you’ve ever had.

Michael:

So I’ve never actually had a job. I’ve always been self employed. I’ve never worked for anyone, never had a boss. Yeah, which is interesting but also I’ve started to see some of the disadvantages of that. But there was a stretch of time where for about two years I stepped away from the technology industry. And I’d have to say that if I have a single regret in my career that would be it. I sort of grabbed for an idea that was interesting that I think could have added a lot of value, it was actually something I did in the beverage industry. But it was really more a packaging innovation than anything else. And we ended up launching it and getting distribution and it was great but I was also a little bit miserable along the way.

Michael:

And I kept feeling like this is not quite me, this isn’t who I am, this isn’t where I can add the most value. And I think that not straying from that, if you know what that is don’t stray from it, don’t let whatever the challenges that you’re facing or whatever outcome you just had knock you off that path. I mean stay the course and if you’re looking for that well then by all means try a whole bunch of different things. But by that point in my career I was already … I knew what I should be doing and I kind of strayed anyway. And I’d say that, that was probably the one regret or the one bad job that I had.

Justin:

So I’ve got to ask then, having never worked for anyone else what was your first job? What was the first thing that you did?

Michael:

So the first thing I did out of college was get involved in an offshore software development company. It was actually people like family connections we had back from Ukraine and they had built this small team of software engineers and were having a lot of trouble marketing themselves. And getting the types of contracts that they felt their talent deserved and I thought hey, I can come in and help out. I can come in and something with this and this is an exciting space. So that was the first business I started out of college. And learned a whole lot and that’s how I really got into product development and really realized that this is what truly I think I can do best. And yeah, that sort of led to whole chain of events.

Justin:

Awesome journey, awesome story, and great insights. Michael Balyasny from Attendify, again Micheal thanks so much for joining us, super insightful in an industry just going through so much change right now. Really appreciate you sharing it with us. Where can folks go if they want to connect with you after the show?

Michael:

Sure. So the website is Attendify.com. I am on Twitter @Balyasny, my last name. And I think those are two great places. I don’t tweet a ton, but I’m somewhat active so hit me up. Always happy to have a conversation.

Justin:

Awesome, we’ll put those links down here in the description. Thanks again guys for joining us. Another episode of Catalyst. I really appreciate everyone tuning in. You can of course catch past episodes of Catalyst at leadmd.com/best practices. Please remember to subscribe, that’s really what keeps us up in the ratings here. And again, appreciate everyone diving in with us. And of course never miss an opportunity to be inspired.

Looking for more episodes? Check out more of our best practice podcasts!

Carilu-D-full-podcast.00_00_16_07.Still001

An interview with Carilu Dietrich on the state of B2B in 2021

If predicting the future were as easy as looking into a crystal ball, we'd all...
Jeff-Miller

How COVID-19 inspired an entrepreneur to build Helping Hands Community: Interview with Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller spent the last 10 years of his career at the intersection of technology...
Allen-Adamason-Title-Card-

How to Shift Ahead Through Change: Interview with Allen Adamson

A noted industry expert in all disciplines of branding, Allen Adamson has worked with consumer...