Welcome back, class. This month, my lesson will cover some of the best ways for tradeshow travelers to stay “connected” to the ones they love while away on an exhibiting excursion.
Being in the tradeshow business can be exciting but also can be hard on the hearts for both those in the “travel-heavy” biz and the ones left behind at home. Modern technology has changed the world when it comes to the business traveler staying in touch. But sometimes, when it comes to showing our loved ones they’re never far from our hearts even when we’re far, back to basics is the way to go.
Back in the day, before cell phones and the Internet, long-distance calls from hotels were costly but nearly the only way to stay in touch. Communication innovations have increased tremendously and advanced business travelers’ options of staying connected and accessible while “on the road” or even “up in the air.” Cell phones, once only used for talking, now also allow us to text (phone-to-phone exclusive) and do nearly everything a computer can do, including email, instant-messaging and video chat – Skype and Apple’s FaceTime being the most popular of this phenomenon. With Internet Protocol technology, we can now reach across geographic and cultural boundaries easily and inexpensively – in real time – by the means of smartphones, laptops, tablets or desktop computers. Since virtually all phones have camera capabilities nowadays, sending instant photos and videos in your tradeshow environment further helps close the geographic and psychological barriers symptomatic of business travel.
Nostalgic notions: hail to snail mail
What seems like a thing of the past can still elicit a smile from recipients of all ages – the time-honored tradition, dating back to the mid-19th century, of the destination picture postcard. While a nostalgic notion, postcards are still quite easy to find at airports, hotels, gift and sundry shops around the world. Although they often arrive after the business traveler returns home, it is the “picture” of thoughtfulness that speaks a thousand words. Most hotels also provide free stationery. So, if a postcard doesn’t provide the space necessary to write your “heart” out, a handwritten love letter signed, sealed and delivered can go a long way. It doesn’t take an adult to read between the lines that the snail-mail sender took valuable time to go the extra mile – literally and figuratively.
It is imperative that every business traveler keeps a mindful calendar, electronic, clerical/administrative or otherwise, reminding him or her of family and friends’ milestones and significant dates such as birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc. Traditionally, one of the best ways to express care is to acknowledge such occasions with gifts or cards – even from afar. Thanks to Internet and wire services, sending flowers and gift baskets can be done up until the 11th hour, but preparation is the true key to preventing disastrous disappointment of loved ones. Avoid tacky last-minute e-cards and send out occasion-specific greeting cards prior to international or even domestic travel by snail mail. Nothing says “You’re extra special” more than the premeditated gesture of a “Hallmark” moment.
T-shirts and treasured traditions
Although staying in touch “from the road” and spending quality time while home is most important for the frequent business traveler to remember, starting a “gifting” tradition unique to a special someone – particularly a young child – is helpful in creating bonds and expressing a mindfulness that comes from a gesture requiring imagination. Whether it is a t-shirt, snow globe, doll, collector’s pin or baseball hat, bestowing the same yet indigenous token from each unique destination creates an anticipatory and festive ritual upon homecoming. More economically, a tote-bag full of tradeshow promotional giveaway goodies always is fun for kids to receive. As the years pass, the recipient of such collectible keepsakes has a menagerie of memories reflecting that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
Keeping kids in the loop
When traveling far for business, it is the little ones that typically have the hardest time understanding and adjusting. A sure-fire way of curtailing the mystery and discomfort of distance is to explain to kids to “where” the tradeshow traveler is actually travelling. Make it a bonding, while-at-home, quality-time project. Put up a cork board with a U.S. or world map. Use push pins to show the different destinations and then Google locations for details, such as population, local fare, sports teams, state capitols, etc. Have them use the information they collect about your business travel destinations for a report, recipe or school project. It is important that kids grasp where you are and what you are doing, but more important is letting them bring you up to speed upon your arrival home. Let them show off their growth charts, videos of dance recitals and soccer games and their latest dresses or magic tricks. It is an essential family function of reciprocity – keeping them in the loop and staying in the know.
•Download instant messaging tools, video chat and email apps and accounts.
•Keep a calendar of loved ones’ milestones and acknowledge accordingly.
•Utilize postcards and imaginative gifts as collectible keepsakes.
•While travelling for tradeshows, remember that staying connected is a labor of love.
Linda Musgrove is founder and president of TradeShow Teacher, an award-winning tradeshow management and marketing firm. Linda, along with her team of specialists, focuses on assisting companies increase tradeshow ROI through a comprehensive, results-driven formula. Author of “The Complete Idiots Guide to Trade Shows,” published by Alpha Books/Penguin Publishing, Linda is a regular expert contributor to several industry publications and sites. Learn more at http://www.tsteacher.com and sign up for the FREE monthly Trade Show Tactics newsletter. Follow on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/tsteacher or email: email@example.com.