Surviving Your First Solo Business Trip at That Lonely Table for One
The prospect of your first solo business trip might seem intimidating. In addition to dealing with the stress of going through airport security and navigating a strange city, you'll be facing any setbacks all by yourself.
If you miss a client meeting because you got lost, it will be your responsibility to handle. If the airline loses your luggage, you may end up wearing whatever you had on in the plane as you wine and dine a potential investor in your company.
Once while traveling abroad, I became extremely ill. I did not speak the local language and had no medical contacts in the area. I had to wait until the following Monday to visit my client’s office for help. It was a rough couple of days, to say the least.
While potential hazards may arise when you travel alone, most obstacles can be minimized or avoided altogether with a little planning.
1. Dealing with loneliness. Being away from family, friends and a normal routine can be hard. Coordinate with the people you’re closest to so you'll be able to contact them via Skype or Google Chat while you're away. If you’re traveling abroad and don’t plan to pay for an international data plan, WhatsApp is a great tool for texting over Wi-Fi.
Traveling alone for the first time has other challenges. If you’re worried about eating alone, make plans to grab dinner with LinkedIn connections in the area. If you don’t know anyone living near your destination, check out tools such as Get Lunched to set up meals with new regional connections.
2. Addressing travel complications. On a trip, things rarely go exactly as planned. You could miss a flight, book a room for the wrong day or become lost. Always plan ahead and give yourself a time buffer.
Pack a versatile change of clothes in your carry-on in case the airline loses your luggage and bring paper maps of the destination.
Did you miss your dinner reservations? Try using the OpenTable website to find a table at a highly rated local restaurant.
3. Tackling health problems. I learned firsthand the importance of planning ahead for illness -- especially when traveling long distances or visiting a foreign country.
Your health on a plane is not affected only by the recirculated air in the cabin but also the germs in the airplane bathroom and on the tray table. Bring sanitizing wipes in your carry-on bag to disinfect your tray before eating -- or avoid using it.
In planning for overseas travel, speak with your doctor and visit the State Department website for advisories on water safety and potential foodborne illnesses at the destination. If possible, have vital information translated into the local language and carry it with you in a waterproof pouch. If you have local contacts, ask them to find a clinic at your destination before you go and bring that information with you.
4. Working long hours. When attending a conference or back-to-back meetings, you might often stay out late networking or rise early to meet with clients. When long hours are compounded by jet lag, you will risk falling off your game right when you need to be sharp for giving a presentation. Sleep on the plane if you can and stay at the hotel where the conference is being held so you can easily slip away for a nap between events.
5. Mastering solo presentations. Doing presentations at meetings by yourself can be intimidating at first. You may find yourself outnumbered by attendees with no support. You might second-guess yourself if you don’t receive positive feedback. This is one area of stress that can't be completely avoided, but it’s an important part of the entrepreneurial experience.
Embrace these experiences as learning opportunities rather than shying away from them. Over time, you will hone your presentation skills, gain confidence in your ability to sell solo and learn how to deal with a tough audience.
When flying solo on the plane or presiding over that important meeting, you’ll be acutely aware of every bump you face because you'll be entirely self-reliant. Planning ahead can help you relax and take things in stride. These experiences can be uncomfortable. But they’ll eventually give you extra confidence to close deals on your own and wow clients and investors, no matter which city you’re in.