Business travel can be a rewarding learning experience with the opportunity to network and expand, regardless of how you get there. But it can also be stressful, especially if you are unsure about the destination and are traveling alone. Alternatively, the stress can be intensified if you're traveling with a larger group of coworkers that vary in age and experience.
I've been in a few business travel situations where I traveled in a group and didn't know people that well. However, you don't have to let the anxiety of those situations prevent you from having a successful trip. Here are a few strategies to help you manage your trip.
1. Plan ahead to save money.
Take the lead and plan ahead. Do people need special accommodations or have dietary requirements? Will you fly together for the entire trip? Don't insist on keeping everyone together all of the time but do plan on staying coherent.
Pre-plan who is going to drive if you will all be sharing a vehicle. Have your vehicle reserved to ensure that you will have a vehicle and help you avoid overpaying.
2. Exchange schedules.
Even though you've planned ahead, knowing your traveling group's schedules can help avoid people stepping on each other's toes. This is obviously important if sharing a vehicle or traveling on different flights. Plus saving money and keeping to a schedule will make the trip more successful.
I have traveled with people who are great at their job but terrible about being on-time. We even ended up missing our flights. This not only messed up much of the trip, it left a bad impression on our hosts. Thankfully we were able to win them over but the added pressure was unnecessary and exhausting.
3. Get to know your fellow travelers (but stay professional).
This trip can be an opportunity to build relationships, not just with clients but also with colleagues. Keep conversations natural and try to compliment their work. But don't feel that you need to limit conversation to work related topics.
I understand all too well that it's not always easy to chat with people. However, being antisocial or letting your phone or work consume you will be noticed. A little effort to socialize with your colleagues can make a big difference.
Though, be aware of oversharing, gossiping, and taboo topics. I've seen people loosen up and get too friendly only to end up burning bridges. I find that using the destination as a conversation starter usually works. Ask if they've been there before or if there's a particular place they'd like to explore.
4. Don't be afraid to say no.
Sometimes working with a large group can put extra peer pressure to do things that are out of your comfort zone. For instance, there may be a point when everyone decides to meet for drinks. Attending for a bit can leave a positive impression.
But, if it gets to be an excessive outing night after night, say no. Sometimes the invitations come from clients that you may have to agree to. While you may have to attend, you don't have to drink. Use your judgment for that particular situation.
5. Schedule alone time.
You will likely be spending a large amount of time with your coworker(s) and will be in business mode for the majority of the trip. To help with stress, schedule an evening alone. More often than not, your coworker has the same idea.
Use that time to rest, recharge, and catch up on any work. I find that even taking an hour for myself can make a huge difference in recharging my productivity. I try to connect with my loved ones during that time.
At the end of the day, you are there to get a job done. Knowing and focusing on your goals will make the trip both productive and beneficial, both professionally and personally. Plus, if it's managed well, you may land even more trips for the future.