Group at conference

Effective networking on a business trip

1 August 2022

After a few years' of distancing and elbow bumping, networking in person is back and we've missed it as nothing quite beats meeting in person! From conferences and trade fairs to pitches, corporate events, and company get-togethers, there’s all kinds of occasions where your organisation might need you on the move.

Wherever the job takes you, it’s important to see every outing as an opportunity. Business networking events could be key to winning your company new clients and contracts, or help it harness expertise from across the industry, wooing potential employees. Whether you’re a seasoned pro at handing out the business cards or need some help getting into the swing of things on a first company outing, we have plenty of practical advice here to make your working trip a success.

Before your trip

Schedule time for networking

Wondering how to network effectively in business? Well, first and foremost, make time for it. It’s natural to try pack plenty in to as short a period as possible when you travel for work. But it’s often the out-of-hours events that prove most beneficial, with the potential to engage more deeply with – or even outside of – the colleagues and clients you’re planning to meet.

When you opt to get from A to B on the South Western Railway network, the on-board facilities we provide will ensure you make the most of your journey time—meaning it’s easier than ever to network on your commute. With Wi-Fi in every carriage, you can stay connected and continue prepping for those upcoming events. Our First Class carriages are perfect for preparing on your trip with spacious seats and extra legroom, large tables and at-seat wireless charging.

Networking on a train

Familiarise yourself with attendees

Before you make tracks, get a good handle on who’s who. If you want to have a successful business trip, you’ll need to know which of your colleagues will be joining you, so that you can align your approach. But equally as important is understanding who you’ll be engaging with outside of the company. Think about what you’re hoping to achieve from the trip, and focus in on key figures who present an opportunity for your organisation.

Reach out

What is effective networking, you ask? Well, the very best examples of business networking are proactive. That means not simply sitting by and hoping it’ll happen; but taking a targeted approach and ensuring in advance that you’ll be interacting with the right people. If there are certain attendees who stand out as prospective customers, clients, partners or employees, get in early and lay the groundwork. For example, you could reach out via LinkedIn, with the aim to arranging a meal or a cup of coffee. It’s all about seizing those opportunities.

During the business trip

Set yourself networking goals

When engagement is the name of the game, it’s important to set yourself some targets. You’ll no doubt have some key attendees in mind by now, but you shouldn’t neglect the fact that the more people you network with, the better – handing out your cards and connecting on LinkedIn is vital if you want to have a successful business trip. Your goals might depend on the scale and duration of the event, but committing to five card exchanges each day is a great place to start.

Stay connected on socials

We won’t need to remind you that LinkedIn is pivotal in how networking is used in business these days. By sharing your experiences of the event this way, you’re taking that proactive approach, opening yourself and your organisation up to new and potentially beneficial connections. It demonstrates your acumen and enthusiasm to fellow attendees, marking you out as somebody worth interacting with.

Don’t eat alone

After a long day of exhibiting or mingling at a corporate event, no one would blame you for escaping to enjoy some peace and quiet. But mealtimes are one of your trip’s greatest opportunities, with the chance to chatter to colleagues or would-be clients and partners in a slightly less formal setting. Even if you don’t manage to nail down some specific lunch or dinner plans, hotel bars can be an excellent place to strike up conversation with an attendee you recognise.

Group at conference

Listening is key

Naturally, successful networking requires equal and reciprocated engagement from both sides. That means not only putting your thoughts, ideas, and observations forward, but ensuring the other party’s are heard, understood, and engaged with too. Asking plenty of questions will demonstrate that you’re genuinely interested in what they’ve got to say. Once personal connections begin to form, the business opportunities will flow thereafter.

After the business trip

Connect through socials

When you go on a business trip, you must ensure the networks you built leave the venue with you. Once again, this is all about taking that proactive approach, putting time and effort into keeping those connections alive – or even strengthening them further. Socials are an obvious and effective way to do this, so don’t be afraid to add contacts and keep the conversation going. Thanking somebody for their time is an excellent ice-breaker.

Keep in touch

Once you’ve fostered a business relationship, always look for opportunities to stay in touch. There’s every chance you’ll cross paths again at the next company-wide or industry event, so discuss your future business travel plans, or propose making some of your own!

Whatever event your work takes you to next, we’re always on hand if you need any advice around business travel by train. You’ll certainly enjoy the extra space one of our trains provide, including table seats to work from, though you may prefer to simply kick back with a coffee – especially on the return leg.

If your line of work involves frequent business trips, we’re here to take the stress out of things. When you open a Business Direct account with South Western Railway, you’ll take advantage of perks including no booking fees, multiple account users and the lowest fares. And while you travel the UK rail network we can even help you keep tabs on business mileage and CO2 emissions, so whether you are travelling from Maidenhead to Manchester or Devon to Dundee, you can be confident your organisation is doing its bit for our Earth.