A business trip should never be a waste . There’s really no excuse, no matter how long or short the travel.
I enjoy traveling, but there’s also a lot of strategy and structure that I put into each trip to make the most of it. For fellow business travelers and entrepreneurs, here’s some of what I’ve learned.
Anchor with a cause
There are numerous reasons for a business trip — to speak at an event, attend a conference, learn about an industry, generate leads, visit a satellite office, meet a special customer. Whatever the purpose of the trip, anchor it with one event that you’re excited about. This gives you a concrete event to plan and look forward to. On some trips when I’m just in town to meet customers, I’ll pick one key customer and plan engagements around chatting with them.
Pack the evenings
These days, there’s no excuse to have an evening with nothing to do.
Every major city has an event management service showing what’s going on when you’re in town. A few weeks before your trip, scour the Eventbrites, MeetUps and Peatixs of where you’re going and pack as many evenings as possible. Rest a little, but be adventurous. You never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll learn.
More than networking
I was recently in New York City primarily to meet current and potential customers, but penciled in a monthly technology meetup on the side, with over 800 entrepreneurs, technologists and startup enthusiasts in the audience. Instead of trying to form new relationships, I actually ended up just watching another translation service present to see how they fielded questions.
It’s important to be aware of how others in your industry present themselves, especially their style and approach. These observations are important—when traveling, you’re not just a company ambassador, you’re also a reporter for your internal team, bringing back insights on the competitive landscape.
Diversify your meetings
A string of crowd-filled evenings can be exhausting, so sometimes it’s good to spend time with people one-on-one. For the major cities I frequently visit, I keep a list of names of who I should meet with, whether over coffee, dinner, or, if I’m lucky, a weekend. Some are friends from previous walks of life, others became friends after starting as business acquaintances. Still others are people I meet in Tokyo who I want to see in their home countries. I try to meet with everyone at least once before meeting with the same person again.
During one of the DEW conference sessions in Los Angeles, one panelist was from DramaFever. I approached him after the session and learned that he’d heard of Gengo and wanted for me to meet his product team to discuss how we can help their global expansion. It turned out that I was going to be in their home city, New York, in two weeks! If I hadn’t had the open mind to approach him, I wouldn’t have been able to meet their team in person.
At the same conference, one of the sponsors had a booth featuring a service I found interesting but didn’t think would have much potential as a Gengo customer. Still, I was cordial when one of their BD employees approached me. I took a moment to share what we do, gave my business card and didn’t think much else, except mentioning to the person that I sometimes make it to the San Francisco Bay Area.
A few weeks later I found myself in this potential customer’s brand new office, learning that their services have diversified and that they need our services to grow. It’s incredibly satisfying when you exit a meeting with a new customer, especially after being hesitant about it.
Get used to repetition
You’ll need to get used to how often you repeat your story—that’s just the result of meeting so many new people. It may seem exhausting or even annoying at times, but find ways to spice up your pitch. Even better, have a list of regular questions you ask various audiences and see what patterns you spot.
Hotels, car rentals and airlines all have their competing brands and loyalty programs. I won’t get into which to choose, but the benefits of sticking with one really come out when you’re in a bind. Needing to change a room, car or flight becomes a much better experience when the representative sees you’ve been a loyal customer. If possible, book directly with the brand—booking through consolidated sites can make it hard for companies to record your loyalty. Most top brands now have a usable online experience, so take advantage of it.
Try some of these strategies out on your next trip—I think you’ll be surprised by how many opportunities start coming your way.
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