While there are enjoyable aspects to traveling for work, business travel is fundamentally about business. Your company isn’t investing in you so that you can see the world—they expect that there will be a return on their investment in your activities. One of the easiest ways to demonstrate that value is by making new contacts. Networking on a business trip can be a rewarding way to meet new people and potentially secure new business. If you’re an extrovert, this is probably a perfect opportunity to show off your skills. If you’re an introvert, this prospect may fill you with dread. But networking on a business trip doesn’t need to be burden—it can actually be a lot of fun.
Meet Five New People Each Day
Set a goal to meet five people each day and exchange business cards. It doesn’t matter particularly whether they’re in your industry or not—the goal is just to meet people. Networking is a skill that needs to be practiced, and by setting this small goal, you can make sure you’re constantly practicing.
Let People Find You
If you’re introverted—and even if you’re not—meeting people can be tough. Let someone else do the hard work. Just put yourself “out there” and let other people find you. If you’re traveling to a city and know you’ll have networking time, announce it on LinkedIn or even in your alumni network, and then let the extroverts do the work of seeking you out.
Don’t Eat Alone
Meals can be one of your best networking opportunities. Try to make sure you always eat a meal with someone. If you’re not with an existing contact, use lunch and dinner as opportunities to meet someone new. Your best approach is to plan ahead and seek out contacts or events that will give you a chance to network. You can find contacts through professional organizations that you belong to or on social networking sites. Websites like MeetUp post an infinite number of activities that you can capitalize on from early morning networking breakfasts to evening fun runs. When I was a marketing executive, I spent a lot of time on the road…alone. I would meet clients, but there would also be many meals alone. I usually resorted to eating at restaurant bars because sitting at a table alone felt a little isolating. I’d see other travelers with their faces in a book, but I would use that opportunity to strike up a conversation with someone at the bar. This opportunistic approach can also yield surprising benefits.
Share Every Moment With Someone
Riding in an elevator or on the subway? Strike up a conversation with someone. Look for opportunities to share a cab from the airport into downtown—not to save money, but for the chance to talk to someone new. This is the way my husband operates when traveling and some of those conversations have become business opportunities. You never know.
The most valuable way to network is to be purposeful about it. Go through LinkedIn and find someone you really want to meet. Then see who in your current network can make that introduction. Try to set up a meal with them. If that doesn’t work, ask for a meeting or offer to take them for a cup of coffee. The more focused you can be, the higher the likelihood of success.