How to make your next business trip into the most productive week of the year.
By Richard Ensman
You probably use technology to build productivity and effectiveness every day in the office—but do you take full advantage of it when you travel for business? Next time you attend your association convention or trade show, use your laptop or mobile device to plot your activities, record great ideas, and make the most of your time at the show. Here’s a list to get you started.
Blog it. Make it a point to create a daily blog of your convention activities: sights and sounds, people you meet, new experiences, new insights, random thoughts you’d like to share. Post on your blog site if you have one; if not, request posting on your business or association site. And drop the blog address to your friends and colleagues.
Check it. Before the show, review your association’s resource directory. Check out the names of the publications, historical figures, statistics, and general bibliography important to your association, all of which are probably available on the website. Keep those resources in mind as you scout out your convention. As you meet meet some of the key people, start a conversation and learn firsthand about industry issues and association activities and opportunities.
Commemorate it. Many, if not most, cell phones can take decent photographs. Snap a few shots of important convention activities, as well as notable sights around town. Post them to your website or social network page, with a few comments about what you learned at each spot, and email them back to the office to keep co-workers informed and involved.
Download it. Listening to a stimulating educational presentation? Instead of taking laborious and potentially incomplete notes, download the PowerPoint presentation or the notes the speaker places on the smart board.
Email it. To connect with friends and peers at the convention, or possible new business sources in the local area, set up an email distribution list and let people know where you’ll be and what you’re doing. Distribution lists are also convenient for arranging evening outings and travel, and drawing attention to interesting convention events.
Enter it. Just before the show, create a simple database of facts. Use an Excel spreadsheet or a simple database program that allows you to code each entry with a topic tag. As you encounter interesting ideas and opportunities, pull out your laptop or mobile device and make an entry with a relevant code. Back in the office, you’ll be able to sort and view the information at your leisure.
Friend it. As you meet with old friends and colleagues and introduce yourself to peers, presenters and exhibitors, create an opportunity for ongoing communication: collect business cards and create links with your new colleagues on your favorite social networks.
Index it. As you receive seminar handouts, product brochures, magazines and directories, tag the information in each piece with appropriate keywords (like “marketing tips” or “supervisory issues”). Place a chronological code or number on each piece of material and index it in your show database for easy retrieval.
Link it. When attending a seminar or sales presentation, if you hear a link mentioned, pull out your laptop or mobile device and access the link. You may find that the linked content enriches your understanding of the information you’re hearing. Save what’s useful.
Map it. Need to find a destination near your convention? A golf outing? A museum? A well-known restaurant? Use your favorite mapping software, enter the address, and the directions should quickly appear.
Meet it. Schedule time or outings with people you know by posting an event on your favorite social networking site, use a meetup site, or simply assemble a distribution list of friends you’d like to meet and drop them an email message.
Note it. When you want to remember something you saw, heard or learned at your convention, make a note in your information manager, such as Outlook. Connect the note to a person, task or subject listed there. Next time you check that location, the information will pop up.
Quote it. Some of the best memories of conventions are ideas and recommendations offered by presenters or participants. Transcribe the information in your laptop “quote file” and save it for later retrieval.
Record it. When you want complete information and details to take home, use your built-in mobile device recorder. If that’s not available, create a file in your word processing program and plug in the key points as soon as you get the chance.
Register it. Chances are you can register for most, if not all, convention activities online. Look for e-registration on the organization’s website, and use it to spot programs of interest, hotel amenities or tours around town. Preview attractions by clicking on related links, and “check in” via your laptop or mobile device.
Scan it. If you carry a smartphone, use it to scan QR codes offering more information on products and people you’re interested in on the show floor. You can download the information you need without having to carry a briefcase full of paper back home with you on the plane.
Send it. If you find something you’d like to share immediately with the people back in the office—a list of important legal tips, a humorous photograph, project instructions—open your email list, check the recipient, and send the item as an attachment. Just because you’re out of the office doesn’t mean you’re not on the job.
Sign it. No need to drop all paperwork from the office while you’re away. Use your electronic signature utility to execute documents that can’t wait.
Snap it. Use your cell phone or carry a small camera to visually record important or amusing shots at the show and post them later. Use the mobile utilities on most social sites to post pictures instantly.
Survey it. Your convention offers a wide array of new information, new contacts and new opportunities. Rather than walk through the show at random, plan your path each day. Access online hall layouts and program schedule via your laptop, and click on the seminar and vendor links for more details. Travel, and time away from the office, can be expensive, so make the most of your time at the show.
Tweet it. If you’re using Twitter or an instant microblog service, alert your friends and colleagues back home (or at the show) with breaking news about special events or opportunities. Sometimes, speed wins.
It isn’t a matter of always having the latest technological toys. Laptops, tablets and smartphones are valuable in business settings only when they’re actually used for business. On the road, they can not only keep you in touch, but help access, organize and store the valuable information and contacts you gain at the show but will use all year.