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Maximize Your Business Trip

Here are 10 ways to make the most of your time away from the home office.

While business travel can be cumbersome, most of the time it's necessary. It is important for meeting people, generating new ideas, building partnerships and expanding the breadth of your business knowledge. It is important for one reason: success.

Given a business trip's value, it's vital to gain the most you can out of it. For this you must plan ahead. Therefore, before you fly off to your next business destination, take a look at these tips to maximize your next journey:

1. Set Goals

There's a reason you're going on this trip -- you want to accomplish something or even a few things. Figure out what you can gain from the business trip and set some clear-cut goals. Knowing what your objectives are will give you a sense of direction and help you manage your time better.

2. Make Appointments

If you're going to a convention or conference, find out who else will be there ahead of time and set up meetings if it's pertinent to your business. However, be sure not to schedule too many appointments in one day, and to space them apart to allow enough travel time. On the day of your arrival, it is generally good practice to set up any meetings later in the day, in case of travel delays.

3. Bring Your 'A' Game

There will most likely be one or two meetings that are more important than the rest. Identify those, and make sure you are fully prepared and organized for them. Be sure you get plenty of rest the night before, get to the meeting a few minutes early and make a positive first impression.

4. Build Your Contact List

When you're at a business event, it is crucial to network. Meeting people and developing business relationships will open new windows of opportunity for your business, and it should be one of the main reasons you're on the trip in the first place. Don't stand on the sidelines. Take initiative, introduce yourself to people ... and don't forget to smile.

5. Collect Business Cards

Bring plenty of business cards with you and distribute them to people you meet. Even more importantly, don't forget to ask people for theirs. Exchanging cards is an essential part of networking and marketing, especially if you're looking to expand your small business. Be sure to keep the cards you collect in a safe place. You never know when or how the people you meet could be helpful to you in the future.

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6. Take Advantage of Free Workshops

Apart from the panels and seminars that take place at a conference, free workshops are often also offered to attendees. If you have the time, try to check these out. Chances are you might learn something new or make more contacts.

7. Explore New Avenues

Just because you think a particular seminar, panel or workshop isn't related to your business doesn't mean you should cross it out of your itinerary. Explore new paths your business could take -- if not immediately, then in the future. Similarly, be open to meeting people outside your industry -- if there are any at the event -- because who knows what partnerships lay ahead in your business' future.

8. Don't Burn Yourself Out

While it's important to get the most out of your business trip, remember to stay healthy. Take care of yourself by eating well, drinking lots of water, getting enough sleep and exercising. Make use of the hotel gym or pool, if there is one, or go for a jog or walk between meetings.

9. Enjoy Yourself

Yes, a business trip should be about work. But it is also important for your state of mind to relax a bit and have some fun. Participate in group dinners and outings, or plan some yourself. When you're happy, you'll be more productive, and getting to know your contacts on a more social level will increase your chances of staying in touch as well.

10. Drink in Moderation

It's no secret that there is usually one person who's had a little too much at every business event -- make sure it's not you. Even though drinking is the norm at networking and social business gatherings, know what your limits are and don't cross them. Otherwise you could end up making a fool of yourself or be unable to make the most out of the rest of your trip.

Finally, once you get back from your travels, don't forget to follow up with any new contacts you made or meetings you had. Send relevant thank-you letters or emails. Also, ask questions, set up further meetings if need be and send out any additional information about yourself that people may have asked for.

Going on a business trip might not always be the most exciting activity, but it's a good idea to make the most of what you've got to work with.