Gabe Rizzi, President of Travel Leaders Corporate and Chief Sales Officer for Travel Leaders Group talks about networking while traveling for work.

So far this year, I’ve put about 25,000 miles on my personal odometer. I travel for work a lot and one of the things I’ve noticed lately is how many missed opportunities there are to expand your personal and professional brand when you’re on the road. As a frequent flyer, I frequently run into many of the same people in the airports I use - we’re clearly in similar travel patterns as road warriors. But what they need to remain vigilant about is that they’re representing their company and themselves everywhere they go.

When you trade the office for the airport, you have to get into the mindset that you’re always on stage. I see people frequently who dress like they just rolled out of bed while traveling on business. You never know who you’ll meet or sit next to. You have to be ready to capitalize on the chance to create a new contact and build a relationship. In a tiny airline cabin, people overhear you - so make sure what you’re saying is a message your company would be happy to hear you communicating…you never know who’s in earshot from your conversation.

I’ve met many fascinating people while traveling and learned about numerous industries and have discussed business challenges and opportunities to gain new perspectives and ideas.  Once, I received a personal lesson on social media strategies from a brilliant Google engineer that sat next to me on a long-haul flight from California to New York. After all this time, you learn to read body language and lean in or back off when you get those cues.

For me, being open to conversation and being approachable has allowed Travel Leaders Group to close a number of key business deals that started with me or a member of my team sitting next to someone on plane. I’ve also connected people looking for a specific supplier with one of my business partners.  All by being friendly and approachable.

It’s not all positive though. In one case, I remember a guy who was treating the airline staff rudely on the plane. Everyone in the cabin was annoyed and sure enough, when I arrived at my office later that day that guy was in the meeting.  Did he close our deal? Not a chance. We can’t work with a person who treats people that way. Character is what you do when you think no one is watching. He missed that message.

Sometimes on a business trip, you have to spend that time hunched over your laptop. But there are many chances to talk with people - to collect ideas on how to lead your employees more effectively, create business growth, or simply to promote yourself and your work. Take the risk, start a conversation and build your network!