Julian Roche hits the road.
Trainers form a very small proportion of the business travel community, but living on the road for a trainer has some key differences with, for example, consultants. In some respects, they have it easier: their trips are almost invariably shorter, so they can pack light, and they work in major cities rather than as development consultants do in the countryside, for example.
This, and vastly improved communications generally, makes staying in touch relatively straightforward these days. That’s good, because – first key difference – unlike their corporate colleagues, trainers are their own secretaries, salespeople and administrators.
So being out of communication is unacceptable for a trainer: emails will continue to come in wherever the trainer happens to be, and they will demand an answer within 24 hours at least. Calls will have an even shorter reply tolerance.
The trainer’s companion on the road is therefore their laptop. The reliable, light laptop with long battery life and a series of power adapters and is an essential ingredient to success. Back-ups in the cloud and on USBs serve as a defence against the inevitable occasional hard disc failure, now mercifully very rare.
Every trainer has their mobile phone, too, but roaming charges are now a constant problem – increasingly clients expect conference calls, which are not easy to arrange where reception is poor.
Anyone who travels poorly, however, is unlikely to last as a trainer.
Thankfully this is rare too, and thank goodness for Wi-Fi and Skype, where trainers are spending progressively more time not just chatting with their families but both communicating about business and executing it in the form of webinars.
The second key difference with many other road warriors is the importance of effective flight planning. I doubt there is any trainer who regrets spending too much time on planning a flight. Value for money is a priority, especially when trying to book difficult triangular or quadrilateral travel plans – airlines still prefer simple round trips.
Trainers also want to accumulate miles with the airline of choice, building trust to secure the best seats. Fighting jetlag is another priority.
That traveller next to you dozing for an entire twelve hours, eating sparingly according to the time zone of the destination city, not the departure, and avoiding the entertainment system, stirring only to get some exercise – it could well be the seasoned trainer flying, working tomorrow, sometimes even straight off the plane.
Other trainers prefer always to travel by day, using the time to work on the course after next, sleeping when they arrive at the destination. Anyone who travels poorly, however, is unlikely to last as a trainer.
Once there, in some locations the short journey to the hotel is the focus of attention. A hotel close to the airport and then training in that hotel is always highly desirable. No one wants to be kidnapped. Believe me, I know.
MORE FROM JULIAN
- Elearning: Minefield or goldmine?
- Face-to-face learning: Old hat or the future?
- Is PowerPoint the only way to present?
The trainer will want to know in advance that they will be met, in daylight, by someone they know, not a stranger with a big sign looking at maps before departure, or better, pre-arranged hotel transport to the venue, are other examples of what needs doing before departure.
The facilities of the hotel matter too. In order: security is important. The hotel needs to serve reliable food in modest quantities that won’t cause food poisoning, rather than anything exotic. For some trainers at least, a good swimming pool and gym so that bodies as well as minds can be kept in shape.
In other locations the trainer may be able to stay with friends: returning frequently to the same location means that a social circle can be built up in different cities around the world.
That sometimes helps with cashflow. Self-employed trainers have to worry about accumulating hotel and flight charges. They are unlikely ever to find themselves in the position of one public sector employee who was owed a small fortune in travel claims, but it does sometimes inevitably happen.
Prudent trainers ask for flight and hotel charges to be paid up front, either directly or to themselves to be put into a pot for co-ordination in a busy and complex travel schedule.
Perhaps this list seems intimidating. It isn’t meant to put anyone off, although a life even partly on the road is certainly not for everyone and trainers travel frequently, often at very short notice. It’s just to point out that for a trainer, every trip requires careful planning, especially if it is a challenging or first-time destination.
About the author
Julian Roche is course director at Redcliffe Training