Looking over my calendar from 2015, I noticed that I spent 28 days on the road speaking at conferences and doing The Undeniable Tour. My travels took me all over the West Coast and to Las Vegas, Cleveland, New York and even London. One benefit of traveling is I get to meet and see people in person who I’d otherwise connect with only online.
Connecting at Conferences
It’s pretty easy to connect and network with people at conferences. Make it a priority to go to the mixers and group meals, and hang out in a lounge area when you’re not attending a session. The most beneficial part of attending these events is often found outside the presentation halls.
When I’m on the road, I want to capitalize on these opportunities to meet and see as many people as I can, including contacts who are not attending the conference, but who live in or near the city where I’ll be. Here’s how I organize my networking schedule when preparing for a trip.
One Month Before the Trip
About a month before a trip, I review my contact database to see who I know in the city where I’m going. (If you don’t have a contact database, review your LinkedIn connections.) I send those people a simple but personalized email letting them know when I’ll be in town and that I’d love to see them. I tend to get one of two responses:
- “That would be great! Please circle back as your trip gets closer and we’ll compare calendars.”
- “I’d love to see you. Unfortunately, I’m going to be out of town or otherwise unavailable when you’re here.”
Two Weeks Before the Trip
I try to solidify my calendar about two weeks before I leave. I go through the conference agenda and put on my calendar everything I must attend and want to attend. Then I reach back out to contacts who said they’d be available to see where our calendars mesh. Whenever possible, I request we meet at or near the convention center or wherever I’m staying. This saves time and there tend to be coffee shops and cafes near these locations.
One Week Before the Trip
This is the time I try to tie up loose ends. I finalize the details of each of my meetings and follow up with anyone who didn’t respond to my previous email. I make sure everyone I am scheduled to meet with or want to meet with has my cellphone number so they can easily reach me. There’s usually one person I’m trying to schedule down to the last minute — sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t.
Although it is possible to work on the road thanks to email and Wi-Fi, it can be challenging. My goal is to maximize the utility of my trip, largely based on how many relationships I can build and enhance while I’m traveling. Plus it’s fun to reconnect with people, especially when they can provide a local’s perspective on their city.
It Goes the Other Way, Too
Don’t forget to stay informed about others’ travel plans to see when they’re in your town. Many prolific speakers and writers publicize their travel schedules. If someone you admire is coming to your area, ask to meet with them.
I recently got to do this with Ari Kaplan, who had shared via his email list that he had an event in Phoenix. I sent him an email and learned he would be here for less than 48 hours, but we still made it work. I picked him up at the airport and we went to lunch before I dropped him off at his next meeting. Ari is a master networker. If you want more tips, I recommend looking up his writings.