On a business trip, in the airport, are you:
A.) Taking forever to get through security
B.) Sleeping straight up in your chair while waiting for the plane
C.) Checking out the social media page for the conference or meeting you’re about to attend
During your downtime on a business trip, are you:
A.) Zoning out in front of the TV
B.) Flipping through your friend’s latest vacation album on Facebook
C.) Enjoying a happy hour drink with a potential client you met at the conference
If you didn’t answer C to both of those questions, then these five tips for maximizing your time on business trips is just what you need.
Whether you travel on business once a year or once a week, you always want to be making the most of your time and experience. Business trips are a time when work needs to be done, which can include meetings or presentations for existing clients, looking for prospects, and attending conferences or lectures to either learn, meet people, or both – or simply researching a place.
No matter what your reason for traveling might be, you want to be productive and successful in achieving your goals for that trip. One way to assure that is to either simplify non-business times to save your time and energy or to wisely use that time to proceed with more business ventures, or both. Either way, you’ll be maximizing every moment of your trip.
Here are five more useful tips that can help you make the best out of your business trip each and every time you travel.
1: Pack Smart, Pack Light
You can’t get much done without the clothes, toiletries and technology that you need on your business trip, so packing is a crucial part of preparation. You want to pack everything you need, but carrying too much luggage can be burdensome getting to, from, and through the airport, which can slow you down and waste valuable on-the-ground time. The trick is to pack smart and pack light.
Packing light is the more obvious of the two—packing less means less and lighter luggage so you can be more mobile when you need to be. But to pack less, you also need to pack smart so you cover all your bases without forgetting anything important.
When it comes to clothing, one idea is to keep your clothes within the same color group so that you can more easily mix and match depending on the occasion. Another is to, whenever possible, wear clothes that can transition well from daytime to evening events. Also, pack accessories that can match more than one outfit to save room in your suitcase.
Try to make clothes such as pajamas, casual or work-out clothes overlap whenever possible to save on space in your suitcase. Also, you can tightly roll instead of flatly folding your clothes to make more room. If you can afford it and have the time, take advantage of the washers and dryers or cleaning service.
As for technology, do you actually need a laptop, tablet, smartphone, ebook reader, music player and all the cords that come with them? Prepare yourself without going overboard. Not only can too much technology (and cords) be clutter, but it can also be stressful to have a technology overload around you your whole trip. Bring the minimum of what you need, say a laptop or tablet and a smartphone, and leave the rest at home.
Also, if you have a lot of business equipment to bring along, you may consider shipping it to your hotel or destination ahead of time to avoid the hassle of dragging it all through the airport.
Whenever possible, try to pack light and smart enough to bring only a carry-on. Being mobile during business travel is much easier, less stressful and less time-consuming.
2: Research The Area
Knowing a few things about the place you are traveling to is key to ensuring you best use your time on your business trip. If you’re flying in for presentations with a few clients but will have some downtime between them, researching the area could turn up a conference or lecture nearby at the same time that would serve your business as well.
You might also find certain places in particular that you would like to visit or take a client or colleague to for lunch, dinner or a drink. Finding a good meeting spot is one aspect of a successful meeting, and you’ll look like you know your stuff in front of the person or people you meet with if you pick the right one.
Another reason to research the area before you go is to explore all of your transportation options. Even if you’re staying at the hotel that the meeting or conference is being held in, you still might want to know how to get to the offices of the companies you’ll be meeting with or the outside meeting places like restaurants and happy hours.
In addition to learning your transportation options and the best routes, you’ll also be able to more accurately calculate how long it will take you to get from point A to point B so that you leave yourself plenty of time to get where you need to go without being late or in a rush.
From a leisure and pleasure standpoint, if you have enough downtime to explore the area, doing your own research beforehand makes finding the places to go quicker and easier, as you’re not wasting time debating where you want to go and how to get there. You can make the most out of what little downtime you might have and see and do as much as possible.
3: Be Nice
Be nice. It seems like a simple concept, but you wouldn’t believe how many people are indifferent or downright rude to the people that help them along in their business trip. It takes little more than an honest smile and a few pleasantries, i.e. “Yes, please. That would be great,” or “Thanks so much, [NAME].”
Using a person’s name can be key, because people naturally love to hear their name and respond well to the kind gesture of actually acknowledging that he or she is in fact a person too and not just somebody there to handle your hotel stay or bring up your luggage (which hopefully you don’t have a lot of).
Compliments too are a great way to get in well with either someone you’re meeting with or someone that’s helping you out. If you like a piece of clothing, accessory or even the smile of another person, let them know. Honest praise can get you far in easing into beneficial conversations and being memorable to those you meet.
You might be pleasantly surprised by how quickly you go through security or the hotel check-in by simply being nice and polite to the person you are interacting with. Courteousness can get you far not only in the business settings themselves but in all the other aspects of the trip that ultimately affect those times dedicated to business as well.
Feel free to smile at everyone and be open, pleasant and even enthusiastic (without faking it) to not only your clients and colleagues but to those who help you along the way.
4: Use Social Media To Meet And Interact With People
Before attending a meeting or conference or even getting on the plane, you can be meeting and interacting with clients (current and potential) and colleagues on social media. Social media is a great way to learn some of the basics about people before you meet them to get an idea of whether or not it might be worth your time to have a conversation with them. Besides reading general information about people, seeing their picture can also make it easier for you to find them in a crowded room if you’re intent on meeting them.
You can use social media in a variety of ways to find new potential connections for your upcoming trip. Using Twitter tags for an event or looking up employees at a company that interested you on LinkedIn could turn into conversations in real life that could then lead to partnerships or other business relationships in the future.
The same goes for during the event, where this interaction can continue and new connections can be made as people are talking even more about the event itself on blogs and other social media networks.
Also, during or after the event, conference, meeting or whatever purpose your trip serves, social media is a great way to follow-up with the connections you made. You can both connect with that person directly and even drop a line about an interesting bit of your conversation or share a link to a helpful article you had talked about.
Social media can be a quick and easy way to create and maintain connections during your business trip. Even just 15 minutes at the beginning or end of the day can do wonders for you being prepared for upcoming and potential meetings.
5: Schedule Your Downtime Wisely
Sure, if you’re in a new city for a business trip, you might want to do a little exploring if you have some downtime. But to make the most of your business travel, shouldn’t you instead be trying to find other productive things you can only do in that area? This could include scheduling meetings with new, potential clients or visiting current clients to put in some valuable face time.
Better yet, you might even be able to schedule meetings with prospects or clients in the very places you want to explore, such as a particular restaurant or lounge in the area. Killing two birds with one stone, and combining work with pleasure whenever possible, is always a good thing on business trips.
When you have an hour here or there, instead of zoning out in front of the TV, you could be spending some of that time browsing social media for new connections you could make while you’re in town or at a particular event. Don’t waste time checking friends’ profiles. Check the social media pages of the event itself, search for Twitter hashtags and any other mentions on Facebook or LinkedIn about the event or search for specific people you either met or want to meet on LinkedIn.
You likely want to enjoy some downtime to yourself or otherwise relaxing or having a little fun, but finding short bursts of work-related activity can be extremely helpful if you want to make the most out of that business trip.