Your Dilemma Answers: On the Road Again … and Again … and Again
My company “downsized” for a second time a couple of months ago, and since then, management expects me to cover for the laid-off employees, meeting with potential customers at their offices and tradeshows (where we don't have booths). Being out so much is making it hard for me to get my work done. Any ideas on how I can decrease the travel — and/or keep my own assignments on track?
— Rhonda, Exhibits Manager
Try some alternate travel ‘routes'
Rhonda, even though layoffs have slowed down nationwide, most companies haven't begun to rehire staff. Consequently, downsizing “survivors” are still being asked to take on extra duties and sometimes, as in your case, increased travel is part of the deal.
Thankfully, there are ways you can cut down on your time away from the office — and make your travel more productive. Our readers suggest you:
- Meet in the virtual world as much as possible
- Travel more efficiently
- Let someone else hit the road
Meet in the virtual world as much as possible
In this day and age, going to a client's site for a simple meeting or to make a presentation can be a waste of time and money. Why travel when you can have a virtual meeting instead?
M.S., a tradeshow consultant writes about a low-cost option.
“I don't know why you need to travel so much. Why not use a site like GoToMeeting? With this, you can make a presentation and review materials with your clients. You — and your clients — can even edit items and see the edits as they're made. There's a fee to use this site, and similar sites, I imagine. But the cost is much less than the price of a plane ticket, and all you need to hold a meeting is a phone line and computers with Internet access.”
If you want to go beyond just sharing paperwork, bringing life to a virtual meeting is easy to do.
A conference manager provides a resource to get you started.
“Virtual meetings save both time and travel expenses. And they can be much more than a shared computer screen and a static slide show. Take a look at video conferencing. Polycom is a good example.”
Travel more efficiently
Despite available technologies, sometimes a face-to-face meeting is absolutely necessary. When this is the case, make the most of your travel time.
Mike, an events manager, suggests a “spatial” approach.
“Take a look at your meeting locations. Can you see several customers in the same vicinity on one trip? How about reviewing where the customers are in the sales cycle? Do they require an in-person visit or will an online meeting suffice?”
An associate marketing manager says it's not only how long your trip is but how well you use your travel time that counts.
“If you can't limit how much you have to travel, make your travel time more productive. For instance, instead of going on the road a day here and a day there, which can disrupt your schedule, why not visit clients in blocks of time, maybe three days in a row? Also, if you're flying or going by train, take your work with you. You can get a lot done — and tune out that crying baby who seems to be on every flight!”
To paraphrase an old expression: “If you can't go to the customers, let the customers come to you.” How? By using tradeshows as a meeting platform.
R.C., an events coordinator, offers a rationale for this.
“A littered travel schedule is not only exhausting, the continuity of communication with customers is disruptive. How about inviting your customers to join you at a tradeshow? The time away from the office in a charged communication environment can be good for all concerned.”
A public affairs specialist believes updating your “away office” is the way to go.
“If you can't possibly simplify your travel schedule, ramp up your ‘on the road' office with a smart phone or a powerful (but small) Wi-Fi-equipped laptop. You can get apps to locate access throughout your travel area with Makayama's Pocket WiFi Radar.
“Also, consider getting a USB drive with software that syncs your office and road PCs or remote control software that lets you view your desktop over the Internet from another PC. GoToMyPC.com is a good place to start.”
Let someone else hit the road
Although your boss has tapped you as the designated traveler, is it really imperative that you're the one who meets with clients? Maybe not.
A marketing communications manager thinks there's an upside to delegating this task.
“Do you have any staff? If so, why not ask if one of your subordinates could handle some of the travel for you? But don't throw this poor soul ‘under the bus.' Prepare him or her as much as you can, and make sure you're available in case there's an emergency.
“You probably see this extra travel as little more than a drain of your time. But a newbie may really enjoy getting out of the office to see a new city and interact with clients. And it could be a good thing for him or her to add to a resume.”
Rhonda, when your boss tells you to meet with clients, you can't just politely say, “No, thank you.” But you can take some of the pain out of this new responsibility. Trade in face-to-face meetings for virtual get-togethers, make your time out of the office more productive and, if possible, hand off the travel to someone else, or share it. And look on the bright side: Your boss trusts you to meet with clients, and that says a lot about his or her respect for you!