Five Ways To Improve Your Business Trip

Business travel should be more arcane than it is in the era of the web conference, but there are still circumstances where the old-fashioned version of Face Time, that is, actual time with a client or colleague face-to-face is preferable and necessary. There’s no real substitute for looking someone in the eye and the delivery of a firm handshake. Not yet, at least.

Traveling for business is time-consuming and expensive, though, so making the best use of that time is important. Here are five ideas that can improve the trip away from home.

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Five Ways To Make The Most Of Your Business Trip

TravelOne would think that the need for most business travel would have evaporated by now in this era of WebEx, conference call, PDF and PowerPoint communication, but there are still circumstances where the old-fashioned version of FaceTime, that is, real, one-on-one time spent with a prospect, client or colleague, is preferable and necessary. There’s no real substitute for looking someone in the eye while delivering a firm handshake. Not yet, at least.

Traveling for business is time-consuming and expensive, though, so making the best use of that time is important. Here are five ideas that can improve the trip away from home.

Number Five: Stick To The Schedule

Human beings are creatures of routine and you, Business Traveler, are no exception. Staying on target extends to body and mind. That means that if you don’t have a meeting until 1, you should be working on something relating to whatever it is that you do from 9 until it’s time to make your appointment. After all, if you had sent an employee in your stead, wouldn’t you expect productivity while you’re not only paying the travel costs but their salary as well?

Asking yourself “is this the best use of my time” is an excellent yardstick for any set of tasks when at home and just as valid when traveling.  Whether you’re a boss or you report to one, returning home with work done means that you’re able to stay focused in a set of circumstances that are potentially disorienting and that makes you much more worthy of hero status. Use your time as if it’s a valuable, rare commodity because, well, it is.

Number Four: It’s Not Personal

It seems like common sense that traveling to a place that isn’t (really) work or home on business should keep your mind on business, but it’s easier than you think to stray from the mindset you (should probably) have back at the shop.

Try to think of yourself as an ambassador for a country called Your-Business-Name-Here. In that esteemed position, you are the face of your “country” abroad, even if ‘abroad’ means Portland. It’s easy for your personality to unfurl when unfettered by the familiar, but what you put forward on your trip is what your contacts will likely perceive as the most credible and current version of what your organisation is about. In short, it’s not about you. You may have the face of Bob or Clara or John or Tina, but you most definitely will be the face of United General Widgets Incorporated International, LLC. Remember – your countrymen are counting on you.

Number Three: Feed The Beast

Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean that your body and mind are ready for a radical change in routine. If you eat a salad with dinner every night and then walk for a half-hour, you should when you’re away from HQ. If you’re poring through the latest Steele or Patterson novel at home each night before bed, don’t stop because you’re away on business. Routine helps to ground you and validate your individuality, which is doubly important when in a strange place.

Number Two: Avoid Temptation

Traveling away from work can feel a lot like being on a bit of a vacation. You’re away from home, your neighbours and coworkers are nowhere in sight.  But it’s over quickly and no part of the carry-on you take home need be regret. The easiest rule to follow in this regard is this: don’t do anything while on your trip that you wouldn’t do at home, with your spousal counterpart, boss and physician in the room, watching intently. This may seem strait-laced but since it’s easier to stray from the path in a place where nobody knows your name, the kill-switch of common sense may be stuck in the “it’s okay” position.

This conservatism doesn’t only apply to the baser acts that could land you on the local evening news. If you’re likely to head up that alley, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article anyway. There’s more to avoiding temptation while traveling on business than staying away from dirty dancing and the injudicious intake of substances with dubious health benefits. It’s more about avoiding gas-station sushi and karaoke competitions that roll ’till dawn. The temptation to do or try new things is there, but a business trip, where performance and ROI comes into the equation, is not the time to enter the local wet T-shirt tequila limbo contest, even if it is for a good cause. Plus, don’t forget that with smart phones, Twitter, Facebook and The Internet in general, your antics are but one SEND away from making you internet famous – or infamous, which is much, much worse. Permanent, too.

Number One: Gather Intelligence

Since business travel is so all-fired expensive, not just in terms of real travel costs but also because of absence of your set of hands from home base, keeping an open mind, eye and ear about this new place is a bonus opportunity. What’s the local economy about? What are the people about? Is there a feeling for the regional culture that you can absorb through interaction not only with your business contacts but through others you meet? Understanding the macro-scene at your destination means getting away from the hotel lobby and visiting the area with active interest. What would you want to know about the area and the people who live and work there if you were relocating there? What’s important to you given that hypothetical is likely the same thing important to people who live and work there, thus giving you the opportunity to better understand your business foes and friends.

The sometimes-tiresome adventure that is business travel yields fruit on many levels that don’t necessarily apply to the reason for the trip in the first place. Using that time to the fullest are travel points that never expire.

Tweet This!

The headline in The Township Journal for Byram, Newton, Andover and Stanhope here in semi-rural Northern New Jersey reads, “School thinking of tweeting”. According to the article, the Byram Township Board of Education wants to use Twitter to communicate what’s going on at the schools there, including the sharing of photos and Twitter-length descriptions of events and news. Since local government rarely acts as early adopters of any kind of technology, this proposal to the Board there highlights how well inserted Twitter as a medium appears for pushed communication.

 

Twitter started in 2006 as a way to “micro-blog” by allowing the posting of 140-character-length “Tweets” through the free service they provide. Using a web browser, smart phone or tablet, the Tweets can be read and particular accounts and topics of interest can be followed. With HP’s combination of their iPaq PDA with a phone around 2004, the use of smartphones accelerated until today, where 90% of all cell phones sold in the world are smartphones. In a rushed world where time is ultra-compressed, the miniature notices posted with Twitter are the ultimate hyper-update.

Although Twitter is used by everyone from the most ubiquitous Kardashian to the Pope, the content of Tweets can sometimes be downright silly. “Just had the new smoked brisket sandwich at Joe’s. It was awesome.” Such Tweets are probably more interesting from President Obama than from your third-cousin Lester, unless you happen to really like smoked brisket sandwiches and Joe’s happens to be nearby. And you happen to have a spare eight bucks because Joe’s is not cheap.

The question of whether an individual should Tweet is a personal one, but for a business or non-commercial organisation, Twitter can provide not only an easy way to connect with interested parties, but can help to raise the brand by providing, for free, a very valuable commodity – information.

Twitter is a push service, which means that all an end user has to do is exist to receive Tweets. The user can configure their Twitter account to text when there are new Tweets on accounts they’re following. There are Twitter apps for Android, iOS (Apple) and Windows portable devices and desktop tools for both Macs and PCs. Your website can be configured to stream your organisation’s Tweets in a sidebar.

So, what should your organisation Tweet, if anything, and how often? A user will follow your Tweets because of a specific interest. A tech site, like signalsurfer.com, tweets new articles and since much of the content is tech-related, it’s time-sensitive, therefore, getting a Tweet allows the user to read the article before it gets stale. Gizmodo.com does the same thing and the number of Tweets they push in a day can be overwhelming for the user but, since the user can decide what’s of real interest to them and since those Tweets are available to the user until theTweet-er deletes them, the user can always go back in the timeline of Tweets and reference things of interest.

The point of any Tweet should be that it’s entertaining or useful in some way. If you’re painting your office yellow this week, that’s grand, but, really, who cares? If, on the other hand, you are painting your office this week and you have clients coming in to visit, using Twitter to alert them in the case they have sensitivities to the smell of paint or the colour yellow is worthwhile. Using Twitter to broadcast messages that should be less public are a bad plan because Twitter is a broadcasting tool. Anyone can find and read non-private Tweets.

Using Twitter as a marketing and advertising tool is an easy way of letting customers know that there’s something special going on and it’s impulse oriented. Twitter can be used to push interested users to your site. It should go without saying that pushing the same message in the same way, over and over, is a great way to get un-followed. But, if you’re church, let’s say, with interesting guest speakers coming in on a weekly basis, Twitter is a great tool to keep the congregants informed. Is there a two-for-one at your detailing shop or spa? Tweet it and push the customer to an action page on your site to download a coupon or make an appointment. Are you in the hardware business? Keeping an eye on the weather and letting customers know there’s a storm on the way not only performs a service to the community but also lets you let them know that you still have generators in stock!

In short, if your organisation has something useful to say, adding Twitter to your communication toolkit is a very good idea.

You Can Take It With You – Making Your Data Portable

Hello Kitty! Flash DriveWhether you’re a creative professional or you just need access to data, like images or documents, when you’re not at your computer, how to get it from here to there has evolved from the portable USB drive to the ubiquitous “thumb” or flash drive to solutions that don’t involve hardware that can be lost, broken or stolen.

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How To Set File Associations on Mac and PC

Double-clicking a file usually opens the file in an assigned application. We may not always want to use Picture Preview or QuickTime to open an image file, for instance, or to open picture files with Preview, and it can be quite annoying to have the “wrong” application open every time. Of course, we shouldn’t blame the stupid computer for keeping us from our fav pics and tunes because it’s, well, stupid and just doing what we tell it to, after all. Since we tell it what to do, we change tell it to do something else when we double-click a given file type.

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Got Mad Skillz?

Let me start out by saying that I’m not too sure how I would characterise this article, since it’s targeted at graphic arts professionals, but my observations are applicable to just about anyone with some particular skills for his or her field and who is looking at what we called “Want Ads” for suitable and hopefully gainful employment.

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Think

An un-shared idea is doomed to obscurity. -Me

“Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if hamsters had wings?” Perhaps not all ideas are worthy of being inducted into the Hall Of Great Things Thunk Up By Humans, like hamsters with wings.

Incorporate Yourself On The Cheap

Many small businesses start out as a part-time gig. Some stay that way and others expand into full-time enterprises. Many small businesses start life as sole proprietorships, meaning that the owner or owners are the company. A common oversight for the start-up involves failing to take advantage of the legal protections available for the owner(s) in the case of adverse liability-oriented action, like a lawsuit, against the company.

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Anatomy Of A Password

Let’s take a vote. What’s the most popular password on the planet? Is it k9H3!R+? No, no, that’s not it. How about pancetta019? Nope: not it. The world’s most popular password, according to the U.K.’s Daily Globe and Mail is: 123456.

123456. Not much of a password, is it? Does it happen to be your password? Or is ‘password’ your password? Tsk, tsk.

It is a doubtless pain in the butt to remember a secure password and writing it down makes it all the less secure. There are some services that will remember a password for you, but the old saying goes something like this: “How can two people be sure that their secret is kept? If one of them is dead . . .”

So, it’s best to have a method of creating a secure password for yourself and to use it. First, some simple rules:

Avoid using passwords that can be found in the dictionary. Hackers can use dictionary lists as the basis for a hack.

The password should be not less than six characters.

Don’t use your name, birth date or any other personally-indentifiable bit of information in the password.

Always include a mix of alphanumeric (a through z), numeric (0 through 9) and special (#,$,!,@ and so forth) characters.

What would a password that follows these rules look like? For instance (and please don’t use this one):

Brahms91#

Easy to remember, hard to guess. Favourite composer, weight when you were 13 and your favourite special character. Easy to forget? Maybe specifically, but if you make up a formula to follow, your can have a different password for each login (recommended) and not actually have to remember the exact password, exactly.

Let’s say you like to make cupcakes and you don’t usually make them from scratch:

Crocker12!

Hmm. You use Betty Crocker cupcake mix, you make a dozen at a time and cupcakes are exciting! Same formula:

Baltimore50#

Hmm, again. Baltimore is the home of the King of Cupcakes, your favourite food channel cupcake-reality show, 50 is the number of pounds you hope you don’t gain from eating cupcakes and # is the pound sign. See? Easy.

So, there’s really no reason to not use a more secure form of password. I’ll be checking on you, -91ADclaudius^.^.