We’ve taught you how to stay productive on a business trip with e-mail apps and expense trackers, and how to beat jet lag when shuffling across time zones and continents. But even before you get on the plane, let’s back up a little to get one thing out of the way—itinerary planning.
Now that your important conferences and appointments have been pencilled into Google Calendar, the next question becomes, how do you fill your remaining time? Pamper yourself at the hotel spa, or dine at the Michelin-starred restaurant you’ve been dying to visit?
Not so fast.
While we’re advocates of “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, we’re just as much about taking advantage of professional opportunities you’ll only get abroad. Away from the fixed hours and routine back home, a business trip can yield prospects and connections if you know how to be strategic about it.
Here are six ways to make the most out of your business trip.
🗓 Watch the local events calendar for industry-related programs
While platforms like Eventbrite, Peatix and Meetup are great for finding weekend activities, you can also access seminars, talks, classes and workshops you would otherwise be hard-pressed to find abroad if you’re not in the local scene. After all, some of these industry-centric gigs might be closed-door and not publicised the way cocktails and comedy nights are.
You can quickly sort events on listing websites by field. The verticals on these platforms often include tech, business, media and so on. From a wealth management workshop to a panel on entrepreneurial leadership, you’ll not only benefit on both personal and professional levels but also get a glimpse of the industry’s landscape in the host country.
👩🏻💻 Network with new prospects and influencers
It goes without saying that one should not just rely on serendipitous encounters to network on a business trip. This is why our tech overlords have intervened with algorithms and created applications like the following to help you connect more effectively:
Cityhour — Cityhour syncs up your calendar and LinkedIn account to find potential connections based on industry, location and schedules. It comes with a neat venue finder and in-app messaging tool, and you can even suss out people within a 50-mile radius if a cancelled appointment frees up time for an impromptu meeting. It’s like Tinder, but for professionals.
LetsLunch — Mealtimes on business trips are some of the best opportunities to forge meaningful business connections in a casual setting, and this app lets you do just that with companies and other individuals. The best part? Because this app is mostly used by recruiters and job-seekers, you may even get invited to an office tour.
☕️ Catch up with old connections and acquaintances
Networking on a business trip may be important to widen your circle, but former relationships and acquaintances are worth revisiting too. That guy from the summit two years ago? His recent career switch may have opened up new opportunities for collaboration. The start-up founder you spoke briefly with online? She may have stories to share about her startup to SME journey—insights your company might find helpful.
LinkedIn could be your gateway to reconnections. Although this social network is mostly used for recruitment and job search purposes, it can also be a gateway to new professional acquaintances when you travel. Simply announce when and where you’ll be in town and state the profiles you’re keen on a meeting, then wait for them to hit you up!
🗣 Learn the local language
It’s said that one of the fastest ways to pick up a language is to immerse yourself in the everyday life it’s native to. No, we’re not suggesting you find a week-long intensive course in Seoul. These days, it’s as easy as downloading language apps like DuoLingo and HelloTalk.
These apps often come with speaking, listening and translation exercises, so time on long commutes can be spent productively. Through a chat function, HelloTalk even pairs you up with a native speaker to help you improve more quickly. Knowing some expressions in the local language helps with starting conversations and building rapport with them, and will make your networking sessions that much more enjoyable and fruitful.
🏃🏽♀️ Venture out of your hotel to exercise
Maintaining an active lifestyle while travelling on business is extremely important, for these trips can take a toll on your health. Getting your daily fix of vitamin D and endorphins also makes you more prepared to take on another day, be more energetic in your work, and even combat jetlag.
Your hotel may have a gymnasium and fancy swimming pool with jacuzzis, but venturing outside to exercise is a more social option that can help you experience the city differently. If the weather is pleasant, a jog at a nearby park could be rejuvenating. Or, if you have an international gym membership, attending your go-to spin class in a studio away from home helps to preserve your fitness regime too.
🏢 Work remotely at coworking spaces or lounges
Many business travellers are fond of working from cafes, but they aren’t the most conducive because of factors like noise, crowds and the availability of a secure wifi network. Here’s an idea—veer off such public spaces altogether, and go to coworking spaces and business lounges.
Most coworking spaces across the world have their niches, and you’ll have a far better chance of having productive exchanges with someone from the same industry or specialisation as you would at Starbucks. Before check-ins and during transits, the business lounges in hotels and at airports are also prime spots for interacting with other professionals.
The best thing? These environments are designed for work, so they’ll have the logistics down pat for you.
Work hard but travel smart
Clearly, there’s more to a business travel itinerary than simply checking off duties and spending all the time in between in your hotel room. After all, you’re in a foreign city with tons of possibilities, so you best get going to the right places where you can meet all the right people! Work hard, but travel smart.