I’ve had a number of people ask me in the last few month, “why do you go to Australia?” So I thought I would share the story real quick of how I made it to Australia last year and why I’m going again for a month this next Monday.
2009 started out as a rough year for me. Lost my job as a lawyer, started my own business helping law firms with social media (a business I was told would fail) and I was also faced with the challenges of raising a family. I decided that if I was going to go it alone, that I would build the life I wanted for me and my family. I wrote down a goal on my dream list, “live in another country for one month, ever year.”
First on my list was India, first on my wife’s list was Australia. We decided to compromise.
A good friend of mine is an author and speaker named Richard Eyre. Whenever he wants to travel anywhere in the world, he books a couple of speaking engagements there, and travels on someone else’s dime. I liked the sound of this, and so I set out with the goal to travel to Australia and have someone else pay for it.
I started to organize the country’s first ever Social Media Boot Camp for lawyers about 7 months in advance. ARK Group, the publisher of my book Social Media for Lawyers: Twitter Edition agreed to publicize the event and I found a headline sponsor that helped cover nearly all the costs. I planned two full-day Boot Camps. One in Sydney and one in Melbourne (the two largest cities in Australia).
I reached out through the social networks and with the help of influential Australians like Simon Lewis, Paul McKeon and Matt Moore I was able to line up almost a dozen free speaking events and meetings to promote my bootcamp. I spoke at: The Online Legal Service Conference, Digital Citizens, ARK Group’s Digital conference, as well as speaking to New South Wales law societies (the AU equivalent of Bar Associations) in the suburbs and the city and then in Melbourne to a couple of law societies there. With all of this speaking, you would expect that attendance would have been surging for my two upcoming events, but unfortunately most of the lawyers I spoke to weren’t ready for social media. They weren’t against it, it was just too new.
After one presentation, I was siting at a table eating the dinner provided when a woman who was probably in her late 30’s said to me,
“I really enjoyed your presentation, fascinating stuff, but I just have one question. What is this “blog” thing you were talking about.” I learned that I needed to start much, much more basically.
I was also getting very frustrated, time was running out, and I feared the trip might end up a total disaster.
Then, 8 days before the event , I had a breakthrough. I went to speak in Melbourne to the Law Institute of Victoria’s Future Technology Committee. I walked in, and to be honest was quite discouraged to see only 7 or 8 people there to hear me speak. Oh dear, I thought, this is my last chance to promote my event- and nobody is here. We had a great conversation though, I shared some videos, my slides and was really impressed by their questions. This group seemed to really understand what I was sharing. When I finished, they purchased a number of my books and a couple of them pulled me aside:
“If we were willing to promote your event to our members, could you give them a discount?” Branca McFarlane of the Law Institute of Victoria asked me.
“How many members are in your organization?”
“14,000 lawyers all throughout Victoria.”
After that, people finally started to sign up- and the event, while it didn’t meet my target for numbers, was a success. In attendance were representatives of 4 of the 7 largest firms in Australia. Best of all, my family had an amazing month in Australia surfing the Bondi and Manly Beaches near Sydney, seeing the Opera House, the Harbor Bridge, the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Ocean Road. We saw Kangaroos and my son Taylor got to feed Koalas. We fell in love with Australia, and while the first trip was an immense challenge- this time I will be returning to Australia to be among friends.
The Law Institute of Victoria is hosting my Social Media Boot Camp this year and I have paid speaking gigs that will take me all over New Zealand.
So to answer the question, why do I go to Australia? Because I can. We only get one chance to live this life, so we might as well choose where we want to spend it. I encourage everybody else to do the same.
The next big question, how can I spend a month of 2012 in India on someone else’s dime? If you have any ideas, let me know.