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Learned Lessons in Business Travel: Turning a Negative into a Possible

In April, I travelled to Orlando for the SC&RA annual conference: The Specialized Carriers and Riggers Association. In preparation for the event, I had two great banners designed by a local marketing company that had bright colors and clever copy written to draw people in. At conferences of this magnitude with over 700 attendees, it’s necessary to stand out. So imagine my dismay when I arrived at the sunny location but my banners didn’t.

I know now from experience: it’s worth asking yourself before you board: what’s your backup plan in case things go wrong? Luckily in my case, my graphic designer was able to whip up two brochure posters and email them to a Fedex Kinkos shop in my hotel. I then had them printed to place on the table at our booth location.  Viola: new signs in our hands in an hour! Did they make the same impact that our colorful, outstanding banners would have? No- but the sign we created to draw people’s attention might have actually been a better conversation starter than the original!

It’s an easy and biologically familiar thing to go into fight mode and become super stressed when things go wrong while travelling, which is already a stressful experience. A typical stress response might be to catastrophize, meaning you anticipate that the rest of your day (from your coffee order to your cab ride) will be a similar disaster. This response invites stress into your body which can hijack your day with everything from headaches, high blood pressure and stomach problems, to full blown mood shifts like anxiety, irritability and overwhelm. Not only does that impact your health, but your business goals, too.

From lost luggage to faulty WI-FI: the possibilities for business travel to go awry are endless. But when you filter your attention down to the problem, you miss an important opportunity to be original. With a solution-focused mentality, we whipped up this sign  to explain not only what we lost, but also what we found: our sense of humor. The great and unexpected result was that when people did come talk with us, it was to say things like, “the same thing happened to me once,” or to offer us their sympathies. Another frequent reaction we got was, “it’s so funny you did that!” It also gave people an idea of the kind of attitude we have when things go wrong: adaptable, and keep our cool! Talking to others about their experiences also put me at ease, so I was relaxed and in good spirits throughout a long day on my feet.

The best protection I’ve found is to do some work ahead of time. Take a picture of your luggage before you send it off, and check what your airline’s maximum claim is. Protecting 10 minutes the night before you travel to cover all your bases can save a lot of frustration. Make your online resources available offline, and pack a change of socks, underwear and a phone charger in your carry on (don’t check that bag!) Keep the morning caffeine consumption low, and don’t forget to check your stress at the boarding gate. Taking a few deep breaths before you board can impact your stress levels immensely.

In case you’re wondering, they did find those banners… 4 weeks later!

When Mike Cox isn’t on an airplane, he can be found at his standing desk making lives simpler one invaluable software package at a time.

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