business people group change business cards on meeting seminar or conference Expert Opinion

Simon Colley, who writes on behalf of CT Business Travel, gives tips for business travellers looking to network.

With technology rapidly taking over many aspects of businesses worldwide, and with multiple tech-based solutions for meetings (such as conference or video calls) it may come as a surprise that 95 per cent of professionals feel that face-to-face meetings are still a key factor in developing and maintaining successful business relationships.

Business travel is simply a part of life for many modern employees, and with the importance placed on meeting face-to-face, there is a significant opportunity for employees to take advantage of business travel for networking purposes.

When travelling to a different city or country for a meeting, industry conference or exhibition, employees are automatically in the perfect environment: surrounded by likeminded individuals, where they can broaden their network and strengthen or develop new beneficial business relationships. But are employees actually making the most of business travel for networking purposes at exhibitions and events?

One way to get ahead of the game and be ready to take advantage of networking opportunities is to research ahead of time. If an employee is meeting someone for the first time or attending an event where they’re going to have the opportunity to be exposed to a wider network, they should take the time to research them online. Company websites and business profiles such as LinkedIn are valuable research tools.

Most events publish a list of speakers, exhibitors and sometimes even attendees on their website, so it’s worth reaching out to specific individuals beforehand and trying to arrange a time to meet up and begin cultivating a professional relationship.

When these important networking interactions do take place, business travellers should have something to offer. Business cards, leaflets and company literature are always excellent resources, and business travellers should never leave the office without them. It’s also vital to collect business cards with contact details from new contacts so that important conversations can be followed up at a later date. To avoid losing or mixing up cards collected at events, apps like CamCard can be very helpful by storing them all digitally.

We’ve also seen a great deal of talk in recent years concerning the “bleisure” craze, in which business travellers take advantage of their time in a different country to experience the sights, with a third of British employees even extending the trip into the weekend. While this is an excellent way to experience a different culture, it’s important for employees to remember that, during the working week, free time can mean bonus networking time.

That’s not to say that business travellers shouldn’t experience a new city beyond the office or their hotel room if they’re not able to tag on extra days. A good relationship development opportunity, such as a networking breakfast or dinner with a contact, probably shouldn’t be passed up for sightseeing. Where possible, combining the two could be the best option, such as arranging to meet with a contact at a memorable landmark or having coffee at a museum café.

Finally, when travelling to an unfamiliar country, it’s vital that employees acquaint themselves with business etiquette specific to the region. It’s a valuable experience travelling amongst different cultures for work, but if proper research is not carried out, it’s possible to inadvertently offend an important contact.

For example, in Denmark it is considered rude to leave food on your plate during a lunch meeting, while in Taiwan, it’s expected that you leave some rice in your bowl. Considering the importance placed on building relationships face-to-face, it is well worth taking time to learn about the customs for the country being visited to make the best impression possible.

Simon Colley writes on behalf of CT Business Travel.

Public event exhibition hall blurred bokeh defocused background business trade show or modern interior architecture concept

Tom Hall

Tom Hall

Editor, Exhibition World

Tom Hall

Editor, Exhibition World