Business travel, while a great way to see the world and meet new people, isn’t without its annoyances and obstacles.
However, many of the common problems business travels face are caused simply by a lack of knowledge, whether it’s a failure to plan ahead, an unforeseen circumstance, or unfamiliar customs.
To make your next trip more enjoyable — and to avoid any business-killing faux pas — follow these seven tips:
1. Always Come Armed With Data
In some countries, relationships are at the heart of business. In others, such as the US, business leaders value hard facts and stats over anything else. This is why it’s always a good idea to keep some impressive reports on hand when traveling for business. You never know when you might need to convince a skeptic.
2. Their Weekend May Not Be Your Weekend
While much of the world observes a Monday-Friday workweek, this is far from universal. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for example, the workweek generally runs from Sunday to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday as the weekend. Do a little research ahead of time to determine what kind of schedule you can expect before your next trip.
3. Small Gifts Can Mean Big Rewards
In some countries, like Japan, it’s customary to exchange gifts during business meetings. For this reason, it’s a good idea to carry a few trinkets when you’re on the road — just in case. For the most part, what the gifts are will matter less than the act of giving itself. That said, the kind of gifts that tend to be received well in Japan include foreign brand-name items, fine wines, and cufflinks.
4. Time Isn’t Always of the Essence
While it’s considered pretty bad form to show up late for a meeting in the US or UK, some other countries are much more blasé about punctuality. In the UAE, for example, it isn’t all that unusual for meetings to start hours later than scheduled.
You can’t force other countries to adapt to your concept of timeliness, so the best option here is to just bring a book or laptop — or anything to keep you occupied while you wait.
5. Invest in Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Business travel can often be hectic, and the airplane may be the only place where you can catch a break. Unfortunately, planes aren’t exactly known to be calm environments. The screaming baby is a trope for a reason! But you don’t have to cross your fingers and hope your next flight is calmer. Just pick up some noise-cancelling headphones. They can make a world of difference.
6. Carry Some Spare Clothes
You never quite know what life is going to throw at you. Sudden rainstorms, buses driving through puddles at ill-timed moments, coffee spills — there are all sorts of ways to ruin your suit before a meeting. Always keep a reserve of clean, ironed, neatly pressed clothes back at the hotel.
7. Record Everything
When you’re sitting in a meeting in a foreign country, it can be hard to keep track of everything going on, let alone take thorough notes on the proceedings. Instead, carry a recorder with you. These are affordable, easy to use, and easy to carry, and they’ll allow you to confidently attend any meeting, knowing that you can always refer back to the tape later if need be.
Irma Hunkeler works for BlueGlass.co.uk, a digital marketing agency.