Clever Carly: Traveling Tips for Destination Meetings

Rules every on-the-go planner needs to live by

Hello, dear planners!

I am currently writing to you from 35,000 feet, where I am headed home after hosting an out-of-town meeting. The event went swimmingly, of course, though the travel process itself was a pain: A delayed flight, a forgotten toothbrush and lost luggage all reminded me just how taxing business travel can be. Those of you who do it extensively—as I’m sure many of you do—probably feel the same way. In fact, research even shows that physical, mental and behavioral health issues tend to cluster around workers who travel for business regularly.

Between unfamiliar cities, vendors and venues, out-of-town planning is already challenging enough; no need to let the actual travel part bog you down. Here are some tips for how to voyage efficiently and productively, so that you can devote your full effort to throwing stellar events that just happen to be away from home:  

Pack Only the Essentials

Do you really need four pairs of shoes for a one-week business trip? Probably not. Sure, it’s great to have options—but there’s only so much room in your suitcase. When it comes to clothes, plan your outfits ahead of time and think about how you can reuse key wardrobe pieces. You probably don’t need two black blazers, for example, so take one instead. For toiletries and other essentials, think about the steps it takes you to get ready in the morning and make a list of what is necessary (toothbrush, shampoo, face wash) versus what’s not (four eye creams, a jade face roller, your lipstick collection).

Go Digital

Every planner has a different organizational structure: Some might include notebooks, ledgers and physical paperwork, while others rely on apps or cloud technologies. Neither way is wrong, but when you’re on the go, journals and printed papers can be a lot to carry in an already tightly packed suitcase. Before an out-of-town event, consider finding a way to digitize your planning process so you can compactly take it with you wherever you go, whether it’s a road trip the next state over or a trip around the world. Think planning apps like MeetingPlay and note-taking tools such as SimpleNote, and scan any pertinent paperwork into accessible, digital PDFs before takeoff.

Get Rest

On any business trip, it’s imperative to be at your best. This means resting up and getting enough sleep. Yes, after-dinner drinks at the hotel bar are tempting, but if staying out is going to hinder your work, you’re better off schlepping yourself back up to your room. I’m not saying not to have fun, of course, but being in a new place or staying at a hotel can feel like a vacation—even on business trips where work is the No. 1 priority—and it’s important to know your boundaries. If there’s a particularly strong networking opportunity after hours that you can’t bow out of, stick with seltzer to avoid the sleep-disrupting effects of alcohol.

Plan Well

As meeting planners, this probably goes without saying, but planning is the secret sauce when it comes to business travel. With any type of travel, there is a lot of potential for hiccups. Book nonstop flights when possible, pack in accordance with TSA regulations and keep important confirmation numbers close at hand. And just as with events, have a backup plan ready to go should your flight(s) get delayed or severe weather make road conditions hazardous. 

Stay Positive

The truth is, many traveling snafus can’t be planned for, and it can be easy to get disgruntled over any inconveniences, especially if they jeopardize the success of your meeting. The best thing you can do in these situations is to stay positive, even when you don’t feel it, and try to work around it: Delegate to team members who are there on the ground, and do as much as you can from afar. Attitudes are contagious, so make yours a good one. A negative attitude will only spread to your team, and possibly bleed through to your meeting. The show must go on—no, the show will go on—and staying upbeat will prevent such spiraling. 

Planning destination meetings can be a huge opportunity, so don’t let the traveling process itself squander your productivity. Take advantage of your new locale to throw a great event and network with new potential partners, so that when you’re ready to head home, as I am now, you’ll be left feeling accomplished in your work rather than futile.

Until next time. 

Safe travels,
Clever Carly