A Guide to Your First Business Trip
Congratulations on landing your first business trip! This is a great step for your career, and it is one of the absolute best feelings ever. Your company finally trusts you enough to represent it at a conference, training, meeting clients, or simply just doing the same work but far away from your home office. There will be embarrassing moments, but I will help you prepare yourself for this exciting first business trip!
Here are my dos and don’ts, tips, and experiences:
SET YOUR OUT-OF-OFFICE EMAIL:
Let your writers know that you won’t be able to reply in a timely manner, you might not have internet access, and leave a secondary contact in case of an emergency. This way your client won’t be on your ass about not replying while in airplane mode, your office administrator won’t hunt you down, and others will know how to reach you.
NOT BEING PREPARED!
Travel visas, plane tickets, hotels, documents, presentations. Double-check everything!
Print out everything and lay out everything you need for the trip at least 1 day before. Download all your programs, always assume that whatever you bring is all you’ll have. I’ve walked into way too many client meetings assuming I’ll have an internet connection and be disappointed.
BOOKING THE HOTEL:
Never book a hotel last minute if you can help it. Especially for a big event. I’ve only been to one event that I booked last minute and had to stay at a different hotel. I missed the good rates and many networking opportunities.
Book a hotel with an internet connection, a printer (Emergency ONLY-hotel printers sucks anyway) and walking distance shopping stores. In case your pants rip…
CONSIDER POTENTIAL HEALTH RISK:
I can’t remember how many times I’ve been on business trips without getting sick. Now, I always carry Dramamine for the plane, allergy medications, pain killers, and some cough drops.
BE ON TIME:
You are in a new place meaning you will get lost. Always give yourself 20-30 minutes to be lost.
I was on an inspection and woke up 5 minutes before meeting time assuming I could get breakfast on the go. The hotel didn’t serve food to go and I went the morning without food in blistering 100 degrees Arizona weather. Trust me, always give yourselves 20-30 minutes.
I really want to advise packing light. Make a spreadsheet of all things that you will pack and add to it or delete things you don’t need for the next trip. Limit only to the carry-on for the 1-week trip. At 1 or more weeks you can check-in a suitcase.
Guys and Ladies: Invest in a good looking and comfortable pair of shoes.
Ladies: Pack work clothes and party clothes.
You can’t really predict things, going for drinks is inevitable but you might somehow end up at a club. Bring a dinner tote, you really don’t want to carry that suitcase of a bag around. Wear comfortable shoes. Invest in a pair nice pair of shoes that you know won’t give you blisters and pack that. You will walk.
GET PLENTY OF REST
You will have to sleep alone on these trips. I had this problem when I first went on my 1-month business trip where I couldn’t sleep and it was affecting my daily activities. I had to end up picking up melatonin to help with the sleep. A drink before bed helped too. Bring music or a sleep mask that may help with your sleep.
THINK BEFORE YOU TALK!
Remember that you are there to represent your company and even more importantly, yourself.
I once told an engineer during training that blah blah car is a cheap car and he told me blah blah is the car he drives. Afterward, I had to make it up to him by sending him a hot pepper tree when I got home (he loves gardening but didn’t have a pepper tree yet). I hope he has forgiven me.
KNOW YOUR ALCOHOL TOLERANCE AND WHEN TO DRINK!
You will be invited out for happy hours. I’ve seen many people drink to oblivion in a professional place and people don’t forget that time Jason fell in his own vomit.
So, before you go on this business trip, make sure to go out and drink to know your tolerance. Is it 1 drink, 10 drinks or no drink? My tricks, arrive early and order an alcoholic-non alcoholic drink. They can’t buy you another drink if you have one already. If not order a colorless drink, at least you can spit it into your water. Being hungover while attending the training will be your biggest nightmare so don’t bother…
Also, telling a client you are attending the conference buzzed is definitely not a turn on. Don’t drink while on the clock if you don’t have the status for it.
GIVE YOURSELF EXPLORING TIME!
I will sometimes take a day off before my trip off and fly out early if I’m going somewhere I’ve always wanted to explore. Or I would plan my meeting on Fridays so I can stay the weekend. I always try to take advantage of room service and get breakfast to my room. I have a friend who would get a message every time because her company covers all room services.
BE PREPARED FOR A CULTURE SHOCK
Whether it’s international or domestic, taking a girl that grew up in the most diverse city of Southern California to South Georgia is definitely a way to open her horizon. South Georgia was so different.
The food, the people, and culture. I’ve never seen people I don’t know be so kind to me. It was mind-blowing. The way I speak, my manners, the way I order food, so just a few things to get ready for and research before taking off on your first business trip!