Conference and Meeting Travel: How the packing list is different

meeting travelMy bag looks different from usual on this trip. Convention travel, though not usually as productive as other forms of business travel, does bring with it the benefit of a lighter bag.

When I go on a regular business jaunt, I usually wind up having to overpack. The problem is that there is just too much happening, and none of it is related. On a normal business trip, usually to visit the IR magazine team in London, I have to be ready for:

• Meetings with my team
• Meetings with my boss
• The sort of work that I do every day
• Special events that have a dress code
• Casual dinners with former colleagues
• Recreational travel, which I usually like to tack on to the back end of a business trip

Conventions and conferences are totally different. I go for one reason, not many. Conference events dominate the agenda, so there really isn’t much time to build in recreational meetings or visits with friends or colleagues – and needless to say, I won’t be seeing much of Vancouver when I’m in town for the RIMS 2011 event. And, I don’t build in leisure travel when I’m on a conference trip, mostly because I’m so busy at the event that I can’t put off returning to the office to catch up.

So, what’s the upside? Well, a lighter bag …Unlike my last few trips – to Palo Alto, Toronto and London – this run up to Vancouver has the benefit of a lighter bag. I won’t need a suit on this trip, just a bit of attire on the upper end of business casual. This also means that I can make the trip with the shoes I’m wearing, which saves lots of space. Since the suit and shoes are usually in addition to a day’s attire, they wind up consuming a disproportionate amount of space. On this trip, everything I need, from socks to cigars, fits in a small carry-on.

Because of the single purpose and straightforward attire, packing for a convention/conference trip is pretty easy. So, what’s in my bag right now?

• Two pairs of pants (for two and a half days on the ground in Vancouver)
• Four shirts – just in case I spill something or have an unexpected night out
• Socks, toiletries, etc. (the basics you’ll need to pack for any trip, regardless of purpose)
• I’m wearing the jeans and shoes that I’ll wear on the flight home

Just to play it safe, most of my shirts can be worn with either pair of pants packed, so if I spill something on a pair of pants, I won’t wind up in a weird stripes-on-pinstripes predicament. Also, I’m short on gadgets for this trip. Since I probably won’t be doing anything other than working the RIMS 2011 event, I don’t need my camera (which takes up far too much space); my BlackBerry camera will get the job done if necessary. My Flip is small enough not to be a bother, and my laptop is tiny. Anything else doesn’t make the cut.

Convention and conference travel can lead to heavier bags if you’re on an event management team, and you get stuck toting marketing materials, brochures and other equipment for a booth or other presence at the event. If you can ship as much of that as possible ahead of time, though, you’ll find yourself with easier shoulders, free hands and the fresh look that comes with not having to check a bag!

Conference and Meeting Travel: Five ways it differs from other business travel

business travelAs 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.

Will the iPad kill business travel?

iPadThe business travel market comeback has been going on for quite some time, but it looks like the corporate folks may be losing interest in getting on planes. I can relate to that: back when I lived the road warrior life, there was a certain amount of dread that came to be associated with the alarm clock, the town car and the boarding process. So, it’s hardly surprising that online events are starting to chip away at business travel.

VentureBeat reports that marketing folks are leaning more toward “virtual happenings” in 2011 and are cutting back on physical events. In a survey by virtual events company Unisfair, 62 percent of respondents say they’re pouring more money into online events this year … and that 42 percent are spending less on the physical alternative.

What’s interesting is that it isn’t an aversion to boarding a plane that’s driving this trend. Rather, there are a variety of reasons, all of them customer-driven. Sixty-two percent of respondents indicated that they preferred being able to attend a virtual event via a mobile device or smartphone (e.g., an iPad), and 58 percent like virtual over physical events because they can multitask.

So, how does this affect the future of business travel? Well, VentureBeat notes:

The numbers confirm what much of the business world is already experiencing: That physical attendance at conferences and tradeshows is becoming less frequent as companies switch to cheaper, easier-to-access virtual events.

In fact, the situation is poised to worsen: 87 percent of the survey’s respondents “predict hybrid (part physical, part virtual) events will represent at least half of all events in the next five years.”

In the next half-decade or so, checking in will have more to do with location-based services than hotel rooms, it seems.

Photo of the day – Stormtroopers in Las Vegas

Photo of the day

Have you ever walked down the street and seen something amazing and cursed yourself for not having a camera? Lucky for us, Flickr user mciccone640 had his camera and shot today’s Photo of the Day of couple of robots stormtroopers* in Las Vegas. I wonder if there was a convention in town or if the guys were just wearing costumes for luck in the casinos. Perhaps a theme wedding? Hope they had a lucky night (going to the bathroom couldn’t have been easy), no matter the reason.

*This PotD was originally called Robots in Las Vegas until my husband informed me that they were, in fact, storm troopers and not robots. Sorry. Still can’t be easy for them to go to the bathroom.

Capture any unusual sights on the street your travels? Add your pix to the Gadling Flickr pool and we may use one for a future Photo of the Day.

Tampa Bay Political Getaway: Visit the Republican National Convention

Looking for a vacation with some meaning? Well, the Republican National Committee just announced that it’s selected Tampa Bay for its 2012 presidential convention. So, don an elephant hat and start pushing for access now! More than 40,000 visitors are expected to hit the city the week of the convention (August 27, 2012), more than 15,000 of which will be members of the media.

According to Paul Catoe, president and CEO of Tampa Bay & Company, “This will be the largest non-sporting event that Tampa Bay has ever hosted and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome the 2012 RNC to our vibrant destination.” He also noted, “Tampa Bay is a dynamic destination that offers warm weather and even warmer hospitality, and I know we will produce the most memorable convention ever.”

If the 2008 convention in Minneapolis can be used to gauge the impact, some big cash should flow through Tampa Bay, especially for the hospitality industry. At the last Republican National Convention, 2,800 new jobs were created, bringing with them $100 million in wages.

Catoe observed, “The 2012 convention will be held during a time period that historically one of our lowest periods of the year for hotel occupancy.” He continued, “Having an additional 40,000 visitors in our community will provide an economic boost for businesses both in the hospitality industry, as well as those indirectly involved.”

Florida in the sumer may be tough, but at least you’ll sweat to be a part of history.

[Via Cigar Reader]