Follow These Steps To Keep Your Business Humming Along While You’re Attending The WWETT Show

How to be at the WWETT Show and ‘back at the office’ at the same time.

We’ve all seen them. The guy outside the seminar room on Education Day at the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Show whisper-shouting into his cellphone and looking like his head is about to explode. Or the woman sitting uncomfortably on the floor in the airport with her laptop plugged into an inconvenient outlet furiously typing an email that just can’t wait until she checks into her hotel and recharges her battery. If you’re finding it difficult to focus on the trade show because you’re frantically trying to run your business remotely, here are some helpful hints for achieving equilibrium.

Be well equipped

Get your equipment ready before leaving home. Make sure there’s room on your smartphone for new photos. Back up your laptop to preserve files on the off chance that it is lost or stolen.

You may also want to upgrade your software and operating system before coming to the show and clean up your files to free up as much storage space as you can. You may run into some slow Internet connections on the road, so get things running as fast as possible on your end. And you want to make sure you’ve got enough room for anything you download while away from the office.

Download any necessary apps to your smartphone. An app that can read business card information and immediately store it in your phone’s contacts is a trade show convenience that eliminates having to keep track of dozens of business cards.

Make sure to pack all necessary cables, connectors, chargers, headphones and flash drives you might need. And consider bringing an auxiliary cellphone charger. These inexpensive portable gadgets can be stowed in a pocket or purse and double your phone’s battery life.

Remember to download any virtual meeting software you might use such as GoToMeeting or storage software like DropBox. If you want to “see” what’s going on back at the office when you call, make sure you’re set up with Skype. If this is the first time you’ll be using any of these technologies, learn to use them prior to the show. Schedule adequate training time for yourself and your staff.

Delegate management duties

Well in advance of your departure, make a list of all the things you do that no one else in your company does. Delegate each and every one of these tasks to someone and train that person how to properly do their assigned task. Let others know who will be doing what.

Also outline a clear chain of command. If there’s a problem with a truck, who deals with it? If there’s a problem with a client’s bill, who should handle that? Try to think of the most common scenarios demanding your attention each day and determine who should handle them in your absence. Who makes the final decision in each scenario? Where does the buck stop? It doesn’t have to be one person filling your shoes entirely. Divide up the responsibilities but make the assignments clear. Creating a chart can help.

Stick to a schedule

Instead of taking calls from your team all day, every day, whenever a problem or question pops up, schedule a conference call or online “meeting” once a day when you’re away, either with one person who can relay information to and from the team, or with the entire team if it’s practical. Consider time zones, the show schedule and your crew’s typical schedule and pick a time that works best for all. Find a quiet place to set up when it’s time to meet and limit the meeting to a set amount of time each day … a half hour or less is probably sufficient.

In addition to touching base with the office, schedule a block of time for yourself each day to answer emails and return phone calls. To make that schedule work, it helps if you record a voicemail and set up an automatic email reply informing people who try to contact you that you are at the show and either whom they should contact in your absence or what time you’ll be returning calls and messages each day. This allows you to turn off or ignore your phone for blocks of time as you focus on the show. If you must, provide one person back at the office with a list of exceptions … emergency situations that warrant contacting you outside of your prearranged call time. Keep the list short and encourage them to stick to it.

Set priorities

Not every call needs to be answered immediately by you. Not every email needs a response the second it comes in. Not every problem needs your attention. Forward emails to whomever you’ve delegated to handle particular situations. Have someone back at the office return the phone call you received. Know what you can put off until you return home. Letting go and giving others more responsibilities when you are gone can have positive effects long after you are back. You may find your employees solving more problems on their own year-round.

Debrief when you return

When you get back home, meet with your team and discuss what went right, what went wrong and how things could have been handled better while you were gone. Use this debriefing to start preparing for next year’s show. Keep a file on who did what and how it went, and it won’t be like reinventing the wheel each year when show time rolls around. If your team becomes adept at handling things in your absence when you’re at the WWETT Show, you might just be able to take a vacation some time during the year, too.


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