As I write this, I’m en route to Chicago from New York, the first leg of a trip that will bring me to Vancouver where I’ll be when this story runs. For the first time in a few years, I’m headed to a professional conference, and the preparation process, it has occurred to me, is different from other forms of business travel. From the packing list to the mindset, it’s unlike the other business trips I’ve taken this year.
So, how is conference and meeting travel different? Here are five ways that came to mind pretty quickly:
1. The packing list: my bag is a lot lighter than it usually is (I’ll write more about this later in the week). Convention and meeting travel usually translates to a lighter load (unless you’re stuck toting last-minute items that weren’t shipped in advance)2. The intent is focused: when I go to a conference or event, I usually don’t have a lot of ancillary business scheduled … unlike a routine trip to see my team in London, in which case I try to lump in both business and travel stuff with friends, contacts and former colleagues. On a conference trip, I’m only thinking about the conference – nothing else.
3. The schedule and priorities shift: on a normal business trip, I try to have a return flight later on my final day in town. This gives me the maximum amount of time on the ground relative to cost, ultimately making my trip more productive (better return on investment). On a convention/conference trip, you can wind up stuck in town for a final morning, in order to maximize the value of the last night of the event – and the day after becomes a total flush.
4. The pace and agenda are wacky: client visits, regular visits with my team and even sales calls tend to be predictable. Even if I can tack on recreational travel or additional business, I tend to know what’s going on before I hit the ground, and not much changes once I arrive. Sure, crazy stuff arises from time to time, but most trips are predictable. One conference trips, you wind up hoping to score meetings, drum up some new contacts and just “see what’s out there.” This means that a lot can change quickly, and you have to be ready for anything!
5. The end is much more welcome: at the end of a convention, I usually just want to get home. I’m tired from walking around, making contacts, meeting people I know and generally being “on.” Even trips to meet with clients aren’t this exhausting, because the agenda is usually set and the objectives are so specific. On the last day of a conference, I actually find myself looking forward to getting on a plane … for a change.