“Should I go to Social Media Marketing World in San Diego in two and a half weeks time? Discuss.”

This was the post I put on Facebook on Monday after my CFO put it into my head that attending this event again (after a four year absence) might be a good idea. 

To be honest, it wasn’t even on my radar because of… well you know… the unpredictable state of the world these days. 

The conversation came about when discussing a recently new client and him asking the casual question of “how did you get that client”. My response was “when I was in San Diego for Social Media Marketing World”. 

He responded with, “Isn’t that where you met Angela?” (another client) “and didn’t that lead you to gaining loads of other clients?”

The answer to that questions was “yes”, to which his response was “When is that on again this year? I think you should go.”

I knew it was soon, but didn’t know exactly when, so I Googled it and realised it was exactly 3 weeks away. 

To this news, he followed up with, “You should look into flights and if you can get some, you should go!”

This got my mind racing and the memories flooding back to me about how much I love that event, the people that attend and the opportunities that have come my way in the past just as a result of showing up.

I immediately had an overwhelming desire to get on that plane. But should I go? Does it make sense to go? What are the risks? Can I afford to take those risk?

Maybe I should check flights just in case…

Even though the event was less than 3 weeks away, my preferred flights within my super tight travel window were available and at a reasonable price. So too was accommodation close by the venue, albeit a little pricey. I even had offers of discounted tickets to the conference from people who purchased an early bird ticket and were now unable to go. The money was in the bank to afford the trip. So that usual stress was taken out of the decision process this time around.

I even had the sweetener of enough frequent flyer points to get me there and back (even first class if I wanted), as a result of more than 2 years of not travelling and giving my credit card the usual workout during that time.

I checked my diary. Amazingly, there wasn’t much booked in and anything that was booked, could be easily shifted. It wouldn’t take me long to pack my bags. 

So technically, I could go. But I kept asking myself the question “should I go?”

What happens if…

  • I book everything and get sick last minute and can’t travel
  • I get sick travelling there and then have to isolate and miss the whole event
  • I get sick over there just before I am due to return and have to isolate without my usual support structure, plus pay for additional accommodation (the most expensive part of the trip already)
  • I am so sick that I have to be hospitalised over there
  • I can’t get back in time for the mini-break my husband and I have planned for the day after I would return (or I come back with severe jet lag and we don’t enjoy our break). NOTE: My husband and I had three mini-breaks booked that each coincided with us going into three different extended lockdowns (so we have form in terms of the likelihood of something like this stuffing up our plans)
  • I return with COVID and pass it onto my family (and yes, I know that I could return from the local shops with COVID and pass it onto my family)
  • The situation deteriorates in Europe or the USA gets involved in the frontline
  • I become even more busy and overwhelmed (because I am already pretty swamped right now) from taking a week out of the business, combined with late nights and jet lag
  • I go and the event is an absolute flop and I don’t get the opportunities that I was expecting

As for that last point, the event used to bill itself as “the world’s largest conference about social media and digital marketing”, in pre-COVID times attracting attracts upwards of 5,000 people (it could even be more, I can’t remember).

But this year they are only expecting about 2,000 people, it may end up being less. Some may see this as a negative, but I see this as a major benefit. Some of the best connections, lifelong friends and long term clients I’ve made as a result of this event happened when I attended back in 2015 when it was a much smaller event.

Then when I looked at who was going, it was the who’s who of the digital marketing world, so the opportunity to re-connect with those people who I have not seen in years, as well as connect with new people seemed much more likely this year.

I was also really keen to talk to some of my current affiliate partners (like Jeremiah and Chuck from Keap) and meet some of the new companies that are creating the best digital marketing tools (that I might not know about as yet).

Could I attend the event virtually? Yes, but can you get the same value from a (much cheaper) virtual ticket than being there in person? Hell no!

I was so torn on the decision, so I did what most people do these days when they have a major life decision to make, and I asked Facebook.

“Should I go to Social Media Marketing World in San Diego in two and a half weeks time? Discuss.”

From the 101 comments (and a few private messages) I have received so far, the split seemed to be 76% ‘team go’, 12% ‘team no’ and 12% ‘team you decide/neutral’.

But what was most interesting was the reasoning behind people’s choices. This was the true reason I asked this question. I valued knowing where people stand on the issue of attending large scale business events, particularly those that involve travel.

Leading the way for ‘team no’ was someone I have a huge amount of respect for, especially when it comes to events, and that was Warwick Merry. I actually thought he would be in ‘team yes’ for sure, as he makes a living out of MC’ing live events.

He asked “Will you get the return from the investment, the objectives you have and the energy it takes (ROI, ROO, and ROE)? In addition, is the Risk worth it?”

I have no doubt that I will get the ROI if weighing up the cost of the trip and time away (assuming all goes to plan), so that bit’s a ‘hell yes’. But it’s the risk of all that blowing out that I was struggling to make the call on. I am usually a risk taker, so my instincts were screaming ‘go’, but one thing the world has taught us over the past couple of years is that you can’t weigh up the risks, as the risks are so unknown. The world turns on a dime these days and there is no such thing as effective risk analysis. It’s all just a case of try to minimise for the known risks and hope for the best (and that some other risk doesn’t come blindside you in the meantime).

Phil Mershon, Social Media Marketing World’s event organiser said “While the rules are loosening, you have more than COVID to worry about. We would love to see you, but it’s not an easy choice.”

I was also banking on him being a ‘hell yes’, but like Warwick, he also understands the risks of events better than most, and I appreciated that he didn’t see this as an opportunity to bag the cash from another attendee at any cost.

And then there was the voices of all my friends that have attended in the past (some of which are pictured above).

In particular, Michael Cuschieri echoed my thoughts that “We need to try and move back to some normality as normal and different as it may be. I’m sure it will be different but just seeing friends again was a big decision maker for me too.” He is going from Malta. I want to catch up with him too.

I desperately want to see my friends again. Whilst I can talk about the ROI for my business as a major driver as to why I should go. If I am really honest as to why I REALLY want to go, I most want to go because I want to see my friends. We’ve been starved of real in person connections for way too long now (I am actually tearing up writing this). That’s how much I miss my Social Media Marketing World family.

The thread that really tore with my heartstrings came from Suzi Dafnis, someone I admire and someone who has recently returned to Australia from a mastermind in the USA. She mentioned that “It’s no different to being here. Just take what precautions you can and have a fabulous time. You won’t know yourself it’ll be so much fun – it’s time!”

When I responded with concerns about the stress it will put on my family if I do get sick and have to extend my trip indefinitely until I test negative, her response included a very important point, “this fear may not be allayed for months, a year at this rate… and so we can sit, in fear, immobilised. They will cope. You’re organised. You’ll put things in place, and likely the worry will have been for nothing but you’ll be prepared. I’m very conscious of passing time and years and us saying no to things that pull at our heart and inspiration.”

If not now, then when? There is never the right time for anything. And I know my family will be (inconvenienced but) fine without me.

These types of events light me up. I would love to be there. But I was still undecided.

So in our team meeting, I asked my team to raise their hand to vote whether or not I should go (note, Janine in the bottom right put her hand up just after I took the screenshot below).

So I mostly had their vote of confidence. I knew they would be fine running the shop whilst I was gone, but I was still undecided.

Going back to the Facebook brains trust, Mari Smith had also put her two cents in saying that you should “absolutely trust your own gut, your own inner authority process… It’s great to gather intel and input, but ultimately only you know for absolute certain if this would be the right decision for you, as with all major decisions.”

So what did my gut say?

I reflected on the comment I made on a post a couple of weeks ago when Chris Ducker announced that he was not running his annual conference, the Youpreneur Summit this year.

“As someone who ran an awesome conference in Australia for two years prior to COVID, I stand with you on this decision. Whilst it was an awesome event, loved by many and had a significant impact, the world has changed.

As a result, the confidence in those types of events is no longer there. The interest, appetite and desire for these types of events still exist. But the commitment to book and attend doesn’t.

As business people, we need to make business decisions. Unfortunately running large scale business events like this for the foreseeable future is not a good business decision, especially when you have other offerings that your audience loves and have the confidence to purchase from you.”

Chris’s response was “Precisely, Loren. It was hard to make the decision, but we needed to make the call.”

So I needed to make the call.

By this stage, I’d completely cleared my diary. The money for the trip was in the bank. I had the green light from my husband that he would support whatever decision I made.

The decision was all mine…

I know the ROI would be there if I attended. One of my highest values is lifelong learning and I know I would learn loads. Seeing my friends and making new connections would light me up. I desperately need a break and this trip would tick that box also.

But, when it all comes down to it, I have the interest, appetite and desire to attend Social Media Marketing World, but I can’t commit to book and attend.

Despite popular opinion, my gut tells me that this is the right decision. But at the same time, my gut fills a little sick making that decision.

So if that is the decision I am making and I am going to miss out on those opportunities, then what will I do instead to generate the equivalent value for my business and for myself?

Here’s what I have planned as my alternative…

Now that I have cleared the week, I am going on a business retreat (all by myself).

My auto-responder will be on, advising everyone that I am unavailable, in the same way it would’ve been had I been in San Diego. I will be mostly unavailable for my team and clients (my awesome team is more than capable of thriving without me), as I will be in my own ‘conference’ for a week.

I will book myself into a hotel (locally) and spend an entire week focusing on ‘working on my business’. My family will be fine. I am even going to get my hubby to visit me one evening so that we can go out on a date night! I might even organise my own networking drinks for my conference of one (inviting friends to that bit of course).

There are many projects that I have had on my list to do for way too long that have the potential to significantly shift my business to a similar level (but in a different way) to what attending Social Media Marketing World would. So I will be using that week to focus on finally getting them done.

I also already have loads of opportunities that I am not capitalising on as much as I should (rather than chasing the next potential opportunity). So I will spend time before, during and after this week leaning into those opportunities to make sure that I get the most out of them. 

And seperate to this week, I will be organising more ‘in-person’ events locally, with business colleagues and friends, to fill my cup in that way.

For me, this is the best business decision as it stands today.

BUT, as my diary is cleared, I also reserve the right to purchase a ticket to Social Media Marketing World last minute and get on that plane if I change my mind. 😉

And if there is one thing that can be certain, despite the uncertain world we live in, it’s that I will be back!