In 2017, more than 466 million Americans travel for business purposes. The objective of a business trip varies from one person to another. Some travels to close a business deal, some to engage prospective customers, and some to attend training.
Whatever the purpose of your trip is, one thing is for certain, you want to get the most out of it. And yes, I’m talking about in terms of business development and having a great (personal) time while you’re at it. After all, you will be giving up precious time you could otherwise spend with your loved ones for this trip.
A successful business trip starts with good preparation. Good preparation done in advance before your trip helps keep the costs low and allow you to better respond to possible incidents. It also helps to reduce avoidable events such as running late to a meeting or forgetting important material that is crucial for the trip.
In this article, you will find several tips for the US business travelers who are traveling for business purposes both within the US and abroad.
9 Preparation Tips for Your First Solo Business Trip
Tip 1: Prepare your business material and equipment
The main objective of your business trip is, well, business. So make sure you set your priorities correctly when you’re preparing for the trip.
If this is a trip where you will be meeting someone — a prospect for example — they will expect that you have a well-defined goal and that you have decision-making authority. And if you don’t, at least have the courtesy to know what your decision chain looks like. The very last thing you want to do for a sales meeting is not being able to close the deal.
Prepare yourself well in terms of content — that could be presentation slides or products that you will be doing a demo on. Make sure that you’re well equipped to achieve the goal of this trip. What equipment? Some examples are your laptop computer, digital camera, pocket wi-fi, etc. Also, let’s not forget the power bank.
Remember, since you’re traveling alone, there won’t be anyone else to back you up if you forget something.
Tip 2: Organize your travel info
Compile all the information you need, arrange them by a specific order; for example, by day.
Keep important documents and information with you (or close to you) at all times.
For examples, your plane tickets, the info about the hotel, the timetable of the meetings, who will be present, the topics you want to discuss during the meetings and all the important mail correspondence.
If you’re traveling by flight, these documents are going into the flight cabin with you in your carry-on bag. Airlines do mess up check-in luggage somewhat frequently.
Tip 3: Check your travel insurance
Check with your employer beforehand which travel insurance you have. The importance of having a travel insurance cannot be overstated.
For example, if you get sick during travel, it costs you a fortune to be looked after. If you do not have insurance, you must pay this out of your own pocket. And you can only hope that your employer will reimburse this afterward.
Or suppose you have lost your luggage. Who then covers your costs? If you have good travel insurance, you can buy new clothes and things at their expense.
Yes, it is normal for employers to cover travel insurance for their employees who are traveling for business, but it does not harm to double check before your trip. Also, knowing the coverage of the insurance allows you to make the best decisions should an unfortunate event happen.
Tip 4: Demand some luxury from your employer
Luxury will not be the word you want to use when approaching your boss, but that’s essentially the idea.
Business travel is demanding work. It takes you away from your friends and family entirely during the trip. Not to mention the toll it takes on the health and well-being of the employee (that’s you).
As an employee, you should demand some luxury in return. After all, you are doing this for the company’s sake. For example, do you have a night flight? Then ask to travel in business class. If you have more leg room, you will sleep better, and you will perform better the next day. That pays off for the company.
It often happens that you arrive early in the morning after traveling all night and that you have your first meeting immediately at 8 o’clock. If you have not slept well, it will be a very long day.
Other ideas are expense account, better hotel, and better rental car.
Tip 5: Travel Light
Do not take too much luggage with you.
If it’s possible, bring all your stuff in a carry-on bag. This way you do not have to spend hours waiting at the luggage carousel at the airport for your suitcase. Or run the risk of losing your stuff in the transits.
We did an article on what to pack for a short business trip.
Tip 6: Bring a little gift
Bring some thoughtful presents for the people you are meeting. For example, chocolate, candies, or perhaps some local specialty.
You have more flexibility in terms of the presents that you’re bringing if you’re visiting your colleague from another location. However, if you’re meeting a client, make sure you check with your HR on the policy on bribery so that you don’t accidentally cross an invisible line. Sometimes, there is a limitation on how much you can spend on the gift for a prospective client.
Tip 7: Have some wiggle room in your schedule
Do not overload your schedule. Make sure that you have sufficient free time between your appointments. Why? Because of Murphy’s Law — anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
For example, if you have to take a taxi in big cities such as New York or San Francisco to go to an appointment, you can easily get stuck in the traffic for hours. It is best to anticipate this before your trip even begins.
You want to have the flexibility to extend a meeting for, sayan hour, if that’s all it takes to reach the meeting objectives. The last thing you want to happen is triggering a domino effect that causes you to be late to the rest of the appointments you have for the day.
Tip 8: Take some time off
You are traveling for business, alright? But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have some leisure time on your own. Between appointments or after work — perhaps even take a day off — do some sightseeing.
Visit a popular landmark at the locale. This may seem like lost time, but it is by no means: it gives you a moment of relaxation and it helps to you to have a deeper understanding of the place that you’re visiting. All this will help you to connect with your colleagues or customers.
If you do not make time for this, you’re missing an important aspect of business traveling.
Tip 9: Invest in relationships
Do you regularly go to the same destination for your business travels? Invest in the relationships with your customers and colleagues. A simple gift that does not cross the bribery line is a good start.
If you’re traveling to a different country where they speak a different language, make sure you learn a few phrases in their language. Showing interest in other people’s culture and languages is a great way to connect with them.
Invite your customers or colleagues to dine out, pay a visit to their family, go for a drink, play sports together. This creates a business friendship that you can call upon if you have problems have.
Have a productive and fun trip
Keep these tips in mind and you will be successful on your first business trip. Before we let you do, remember to keep emergency numbers close by so that you know how to get help should an emergency arise. Happy traveling.
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