Supercompetent Speaking: Stay Organized While on the Road

Tips for the travel process broken down into before, during, and after categories.

By Laura Stack, MBA, CSP

With the exception of in-house workshop leaders at corporate universities for large companies, few professional speakers have the luxury of delivering all their talks in the same familiar setting. You’ll probably find yourself on the road as often as not—flying out, flying in, or speaking. Your “office” includes the plane, hotel, and taxi. “I was on the road” is no excuse for not returning calls and keeping up with e-mail. Therefore, you’ll need to acquire the tools and habits necessary to keep up with your work while living out of a suitcase.

This article may not help you become a better speaker per se, but realize that nothing exists in a vacuum. When you live to speak, you care mostly about the speech itself, but you’ll also have to handle the logistics necessary to ensure that you reach your destination with a minimum of fuss. When you return home, you’ll want to make sure everything’s handled.

I’ve broken the travel process down into Before, During, and After categories, offering basic tips for all three.


1. Set up a separate expense envelope for each clientto keep your receipts straight. You’ll find this especially useful when away on multi-presentation trips. If you aren’t careful, you may end up mixing the Chicago expenses with the San Francisco and Toronto ones—upsetting your bookkeeper and confusing your clients. In addition to the expense envelope, you may want to capture and store the individual receipts in a simple online application such as Evernote or Shoeboxed.

2. Register for an airport pre-check service, assuming your home airport offers one. Denver International, for example, has TSA Pre√. You don’t have to remove your shoes, dig out your liquids, or take out your laptop; it’s the way airport security used to be. The CLEAR card offers a similar service at a few U.S. airports. You’ll have to pay for the privilege in either case, but it’s worth every penny in my book.

3. Always fly on one airline. Preferred status—with its separate check-in lines, security lines, boarding lines, and complimentary first-class upgrades—is worth its weight in gold. I fly United whenever possible. One year, I was 10,000 miles short of the number needed for preferred status, so I bought a ticket from Denver to Munich, Germany, and flew back two hours later, required miles in hand. Yes, it’s worth it.

4. Keep an empty water bottle with you to fill once you’re past security—unless you like paying $4 for a soda.

5. Arrange for top-notch ground transportation. I use all-inclusive travel, so my client doesn’t flinch when I bill for a car service in Denver and the event city. If you must rent a car, pay for Hertz Gold Choice, National’s Emerald Aisle, or an equivalent, so you can just grab your car and go when you arrive—without waiting in line.

6. Download a GPS app for your smart phoneso you don’t risk getting lost. Some of these apps will even recite the directions to you, just like a car GPS system, via a speakerphone or hands-free function.


7. Always bring a clean copy of any handouts, just in case the client says “What handout?” They can run off the copies you need in a jiffy.

8. Have access to digital copies of your presentation in multiple locations, in case your computer dies, the file goes AWOL, or the deck gets corrupted. Always have a printout of the entire presentation to refer to, and make sure you keep your electronic backups separated. For example, a flash drive in your pocket can supplement the file in your DropBox.

9. Work! I spend all my spare time on the road working: plane time, taxi time, hotel time. I don’t nap on planes, watch the movie, read pleasure books, or even watch TV in my hotel room. I want all my time at home to be playtime with my family, so I make sure I don’t have any “leftover” work when I arrive home.


10. Unpack and reorganize as soon as you return from a trip, processing all information through your system and getting it into the right places. Finish with one trip before diving into new work. Did you end up with a fistful of business cards? Immediately enter all the new information in your customer and contacts databases, toss the paper cards, and schedule follow-ups. Unpack and restock your suitcase. Get the garbage out of your briefcase. Reorganize all cords.

11. Invoice your client immediately following each booking (or at least put the invoice envelope into the bookkeeper’s pile), so you get every dime you’re entitled to receive. Again, this helps you avoid confusion, because if you don’t do it right away, you’ll soon forget what you did and what goes with what.

You get the point! If you take just a few relatively simple and inexpensive steps before heading out on the road, you’ll eliminate some of the inevitable travel hassles. If you also stay on point and take reasonable precautions during and after, your busy life will prove much easier to handle. Plus, you can get work out of the way ASAP, so you can spend more time doing the things you enjoy, and being with the ones you love when you’re not on the road.

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, is an expert in productivity. For more than 20 years, her speeches have helped entrepreneurs, leaders, teams, and organizations improve output, lower stress, and save time at work and in life. Her company, The Productivity Pro, Inc., provides time management workshops around the globe that help attendeesachieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time. An expert in the field of performance and workplace issues, Stack is theauthor or co-author of 10 books, most recently “What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do.” Connect with her at;; or

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