Yours truly recently embarked on a ten-day business trip along with my business cohort Matt. It was the first time either of us had gone on a work trip that long, and we learned a few things. The first lesson? You better give me a really good business destination if I'm going to hit the road for ten days again ;)
On a more serious note - while the trip may have been long, it was still productive. In addition to the stack of contacts we gathered along our trips through four airports, two conferences, a couple networking events, and a slew of meetings, we gathered some great intel to share with you.
So, without further ado, here are our...
Top 5 Tips for Making the Most of a (Long) Business Trip
1. Down Time is Happy Time
If your trip is longer than five days, we highly recommend booking a "down" day somewhere in the middle. At least give yourself an afternoon or evening off if you can't make a full day work with the schedule. And when we say down time, here's what we mean: do something either by yourself or away from those you've been traveling with; leave the computer at home; don't check email; put the phone on silent.
When you're in the intensity of conferences, networking events, and meetings for 10 - 12 hours a day, it is important to give yourself a break from the stimuli. Otherwise, you'll burn out and become ineffective pretty quickly.
2. Establish a Home Base Support System
When you're on the road, everything "back home" comes to a screeching halt. Knowing you have to go back to the office to find stacks of mail, millions of voicemails, and a pile of catch up makes the prospect of a trip of any length daunting.
Whether you're a party of one or have a staff to back you up, be sure you have systems in place to help alleviate the back log. If you have staff, make sure you check in with them daily to address any items that have come up. Have someone check and respond to any messages (voice or e-) you feel comfortable having them handle, and have them send on any urgent information via text or a phone call. The more you empower your team to take charge in your absence, the easier your business travel (and subsequent return home) becomes.
If you lack the luxury of back-up staff, be sure to get systems in place that help you virtually. A phone system that works with you (not against you) and collaborative applications that let you keep in touch without hassle are key. If you get mail, ask a friend to gather it for you and toss the junk, so there's a little less to sort when you get home, or consider using a mail forwarding agent to do that for you - regularly!
3. Get Creative to Maximize Your Travel Time
While this may seem counter-intuitive to the suggestion to find time for yourself, it is also important to maximize the time you have in an alternative location for networking. Depending on your meeting or event schedule, you may have time in the evening to look for outside events. We're big fans of Network After Work, which is a high quality networking event held in over 85 cities. Use Meet-Up or something similar to find networking events that relate to your industry that might be happening while you're in town. It is a great way to expand your contacts and reach a whole new group of people in a totally new place!
4. Don't Eat the Ice Cream
If you're a foodie, like me, one of the biggest pitfalls of travel is FOOD. Conferences and events often provide a pastry-filled breakfast, constant coffee breaks, a hearty lunch - with dessert! - three hours after breakfast, and cocktails and apps during networking. If you travel frequently or for long periods of time, you'll likely find yourself gaining and losing the same 5 (10?) pounds every time you hit the road and return home.
Moral of the story? Stick to or find a manageable self-care travel routine. If you're a healthy eater, eat healthy. Forgo the temptation to eat three lemon tarts out of sheer excitement of them having gluten free shells (no personal experience there...). If you workout, workout on the road. Skip the Uber and go for a walk in the morning, at lunch, or on your way to dinner (sitting around in conference chairs for 12 hours can wreak havoc on your back)!
In short, don't let your business travel companions talk you into getting ice cream every night, heh!
5. Take a Day for You and a Day to Review
When you get home from a business trip, regardless of its length, one of two things usually happens: you're either burnt out or completely overwhelmed. The stack of business cards from networking stays in your bag for months because the thought of follow-up is just unbearable, and you go right back into your pre-travel work routine.
All of the above basically negates 80% of your reason for travel, so take a few steps to make the most out of your travel by setting up a successful return home routine. First, give yourself a day of rest. Even if you return home on a Monday, give yourself a day away on Tuesday. Do laundry, catch up with your kids, or otherwise do something to reset your mind and give yourself the time YOU need as a person. When you get back into the office, give yourself time to review everything you learned, the people you met, and your action items from your time away. Spend the day following up on event activities, making calls, and sending emails to those you want to keep in contact with.
Once you've satisfied your personal need for recovery and spent some time leveraging the information you brought home from your travels, then you can re-focus on the needs of your staff, the office, and your daily grind.
EasyBizStart focuses on helping entrepreneurs and small business start and grow through systems that help productivity and collaboration and reduce risk. If you find yourself on the road more than not, we've got some great tools to help you stay on top of things no matter where your business lives! Contact us today for more information on how we can help you succeed! firstname.lastname@example.org | 775-800-5501