Business trips are more than just meetings, flights and hotel stays; they’re an excellent opportunity to expand your professional network. Networking may have evolved over recent years but at its core it’s a strategic move that can open doors, create partnerships and even lead to new business ventures. By networking effectively, in person, you can maximise the value of your next business trip, whether it’s in New York or New South Wales.
The Importance of Networking
Whilst it may seem obvious to many, it’s important to understand why networking is so crucial during business trips. When you’re in a different city or country, you’re exposed to a new pool of professionals who can offer fresh perspectives, insights and opportunities. These connections can be invaluable for your career and your company. Networking can also make your trip more enjoyable, as you’ll likely meet people who can recommend local attractions, dining spots and cultural experiences (if you haven’t already asked your Traveltrust travel manager already that is!)
Pre-Trip Planning: Do Your Homework
Effective networking starts before you even pack your suitcase. Research the people you’ll be meeting and the organisations they represent. LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for this. Look for common interests, mutual connections or shared experiences that can serve as conversation starters. A little effort goes a long way when it comes to helping you stand out in a crowd.
Also, don’t limit your research to just the people you’re scheduled to meet with. Find out if there are any industry events, seminars or social gatherings happening during your trip. These are going to be excellent venues for networking.
Business Cards: The Old-School Essential
In the digital age, business cards might seem archaic, but they remain a networking staple. Always carry a stack of up-to-date, well-designed business cards with you. They’re a quick and easy way to exchange contact information and ensure you’re remembered after the trip. And for those cards you pick up, be sure to look up and connect with any new contacts you’ve made. You can also find apps to automatically scan in the details from business cards so your address book is updated.
Master the Elevator Pitch
Your elevator pitch is a concise, engaging summary of who you are, what you do and what you’re looking for. It should be no longer than 30 seconds—the time it takes for a typical journey in an elevator (or lift as they are known to many). Having a well-rehearsed, short, snappy pitch can make you appear more confident and memorable, especially in impromptu networking situations where you might not have otherwise prepped in advance.
The Art of Small Talk
Small talk is an essential skill in networking. It helps break the ice and sets the stage for deeper conversations. Be genuinely interested in the other person. Ask open-ended questions about their work, interests and opinions. Listen actively and respond thoughtfully. Remember, networking is a two-way street; it’s not just about what you can gain but also what value you can offer.
Follow Up: The Key to Lasting Connections
Networking doesn’t end when your trip does. The follow-up is crucial for turning those new acquaintances into valuable connections. Aim to send a personalised email or LinkedIn message within a week of your return. By mentioning specific topics you discussed and expressing your desire to stay in touch or collaborate in the future you’ll give yourself a far greater chance of being remembered.
Leverage Social Media
Don’t underestimate the power of social media for networking. Share updates, photos or insights from your trips on platforms like LinkedIn and X/Twitter. Tag people you’ve met and companies you’ve visited. This not only keeps you on their radar but also expands your reach to their networks.
Networking Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts
- Do be respectful of people’s time, especially if they’re hosting you.
- Don’t be overly aggressive or pushy; let the relationship develop naturally.
- Do be open to meeting people from other industries; you never know where an opportunity might come from.
- Don’t forget to thank people who have helped or spent time with you during your trip.
Let the Results Speak for Themselves
Networking on a business trip is not just an add-on; it’s an investment in your professional growth. Get this valuable business art form right and you can turn a routine business trip into a career-enhancing experience. So next time you find yourself packing for your travels, remember to pack your networking skills along with your laptop and other business travel essentials!