Speaking MY Truth

As I reflect on my first international trip in nearly a year, the thought process splits into so many fragments that I’ll try to categorize them the best I can, but please bear with me as I attempt to cover all of the questions I’ve received while giving you some back story. This is not the detailed overview of the specific travel or meeting experience, which I’m very excited to write (Part 1 is published)….this is the decision making process to actually do it.

This started out feeling defensive because some people did not have the kindest things to say, but as I reflect and take a breath I know that comes from inside of them….whether it stems from not understanding, not being in a good place themselves, or whatever is going on in their world at the moment. Point is, social media allows for anyone to post any view or sit behind a keyboard and comment without thinking them (or the potential ramifications of who they are calling out) through, so I tend to let those comments go and focus on people that engage in thoughtful, open dialogue. I appreciate those that have connected with me personally since I’ve returned home, even if the outcome was “still friends, but I wouldn’t have made that decision personally.” Cool. Duly noted. I heard you, and will continue to hear you.


I love our meetings & events industry, I love to travel, and frankly…for my own sanity and mental health I needed to do some work that felt good while simultaneously affecting the trajectory of our industry. Nearly one year ago to the day I was poised to have the best year on record, personally and professionally. I had stepped in as the chairwoman of the SEARCH Foundation, business was booming, I had an inbox full of speaking contracts & consulting requests, and I spent my birthday in The Bahamas working on the newest venture for my company by combining Brand Ambassador work with Brand & Service Audits. I was going to work with properties all over the world and my biggest concern was ordering a new passport early so I’d have enough pages for stamps to fulfill these obligations. I know, I hate me right now, too.

How frickin naive were we all? By last February I was wary, but not full blown panicked. By March I was attempting to stay cautiously optimistic and stay calm, but also battening down the hatches because we all saw this storm coming. None of us could have predicted that we’d all still be sitting here, in the midst of this a year later. I pray I’m not reading this in another year and we’re still battling it. If you’d like to pretend you forecasted the largest pandemic of our lifetime, kindly exit this blog now, as I know you won’t like any of the rest of what I have to say. Otherwise, buckle up.

We all did the best we could with the information we had. We are still continuing to make decisions and take measured risks based on the data available to us. As leaders it is our job to make those tough decisions to help our businesses and our livelihoods survive through difficult times while taking care of colleagues, friends and family. Is every decision right? No. Do good leaders admit when they’re wrong? Yes.

Do I feel taking this trip was a bad move? Nope.

Would I do it again today? Yep.

We need human connection. We need to support each other. We need people willing to test boundaries so we can better understand them and how we implement strategies to safely recover from this devastation. This isn’t the typical crisis we’ve seen….you can see the lasting scars from wildfires, hurricanes, car wrecks, surgeries and more. This runs much deeper. We’re broken on the inside and we’re isolated on top of it, so we lack the ability to come together to heal in all the ways we need to. We’re divided by not understanding how each other feels because we’re not able to sit and look each other in the eye and feel that genuine bond and connection. Emotions are heightened and people are reactionary because we don’t know how else to be right now….we’ve been hurt and we lash out when we don’t understand something or we don’t agree.

It’s ok to agree to disagree. I encourage people to share varying viewpoints so we never wind up in some irreversible version of an Abilene Paradox. It’s good to have meaningful conversations and allow for opinions other than yours to help shape the course of what we do. I made a decision to work with a colleague to help them showcase their efforts in safety efforts within our industry. I then asked a collective group of very smart industry individuals if they were comfortable enough to want to take this journey with me while working on a project that we all donate countless hours and dollars to. We addressed every potential risk, as well as how it would be perceived. No one was persuaded to make a specific decision…and those that were not in a position to join us in person also supported the efforts and WANTED to do what they could from where they sat. It was thoughtful and everyone eagerly said YES! We want to be part of this solution.

Do we have the solution yet? No.

Are we closer than we were a year ago? Yes. I wholeheartedly believe that.

And I’m so very proud of the work that we accomplished in our Strategic Planning Sessions. Taking this measured risk and spending this time together Face to Face helped us to all reconnect and get down to business….assisting individuals in crisis. When I finish typing this I’m going to start work on the Annual Report and a recap on behalf of the Foundation that I love so very much…I’m not covering all of that here in this moment because I wanted to give you a chance to understand the thought process, and also weigh in with your opinions on it if you choose to share. I also don’t want to steal the thunder from the individuals that have so many great continued giving initiatives that are stemming from this meeting alone. An incredible amount of planning and strategy was covered and I don’t believe for one second we could have done it with only a video chat.

I give a huge kudos to our industry for being the first to take action and pivot to virtual options to keep us connected throughout this pandemic….heck, I’m a Brand Ambassador for one of them! Clearly, I’ve always been a fan of virtual…I even live streamed my wedding before it was cool. Technology is the future, but it isn’t a replacement for Face to Face human interactions.

Real talk though: I saw the burnout in the eyes of my friends and colleagues though the computer screen. I’ve read the cases that we’ve received asking for crisis relief that are absolutely heart breaking. I know this is not going away yet and that the requests for help will only continue to grow. I know that we need to continue to find ways to increase revenue streams and stay financially solvent and responsible so we can keep awarding crisis relief grants to industry colleagues and friends when they need it most. I am so proud of the work that this team put in to come up with a plan for the future of the foundation and I’m incredibly grateful to the partners and friends I’ve made along the way that will jump in and say “how can I help?”…the relationships built here will help sustain us long term, personally and professionally.

I can’t thank the property enough for welcoming us so we could do the work we need to do. I’m doing that in a big, lengthy post later this week because I want them to have the limelight there. This *hopefully* explains the rationale behind this decision to meet together and start the healing process. Believe me when I say I am more than happy to have those conversations or answer any specific questions. Transparency and communication are key.

Apologies that this is a day late, but Jan 18th was not the day to take focus away from what we should be honoring, and tomorrow we will all be glued to our screens, I’m sure.

Leadership isn’t easy even in good times; let alone in bad. I applaud anyone that is up for the task and that isn’t afraid to talk about the positive and negative aspects of it. We should always be striving to improve. There are a few things I am absolutely certain of though…I firmly believe we will come back. We will recover. We are #StrongerTogether