The other day I was looking at a map of the United States with my kids. They asked me how many states I have been to. The answer was 45. And I have had a chance to visit a vast majority of them because of my work in the tradeshow industry whether as an exhibitor, attendee or a supplier. Many of us in the industry become road warriors, racking up the frequent flyer miles and traveling all over the country (and, in some case, the world) to do our jobs.
Many of us have the routine down pat. Catch the shuttle from the airport to the hotel and then from the hotel to the convention center, with rarely a peek at the city we’re in. I can understand the desire to do that. And I’ve done it a few times myself, especially when I’ve had a cold or flu and a show I absolutely could not miss (thank you Dayquil and Nyquil).
But for the most part, I view the travel afforded me by my job to be a unique opportunity to sightsee all over the country and see things I might never get a chance to see again. From wrestling alligators in Orlando, to seeing the 6th floor museum in Dallas, to a bike tour of Chicago, to getting a guided tour of Dr. Martin Luther King’s house in Atlanta, I have managed to see the sights all over the country.
“But we’re there to work” many of you would say. And I couldn’t agree more. Your first priority is your job and there’s no reason you can’t shine and still see some of the sights. So how do you do it? The first step is to plan ahead. Find out where you’re staying. Is there anything you’d like to see nearby? Is it open when you have some downtime? Do you have half a day off? Then broaden your search and plan accordingly.
Another one of my favorite things to do, is get up at 6 AM and walk around the city. It’s good exercise, it clears your mind for the day ahead and you get to see the city at a time when most natives don’t even see it. Denver’s City Hall stands out as a beautiful place to catch the sunrise.
Often the event itself will offer some great sightseeing opportunities as part of its program. At IAEE’s Expo Expo, I have had a chance to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (My son will never forgive me), the Georgia Aquarium, the Miami Zoo among others. It’s also a great chance to bond with other attendees and exhibitors outside the exhibit hall. And maybe the only chance you will have to have a few cocktails at the Zoo.
Traveling also gives you a great opportunity to sample the local cuisine. A little bit of planning ahead will give you some ideas as to where and what to eat. Check out the cheap eats as well. One of my favorite meals was a shrimp Po’ Boy at Mother’s in New Orleans (or a Beignet at Café Du Monde…or basically any food at all in the Big Easy). Dining is also a great opportunity to wine and dine a client, a potential client or just networking. In other words, a great way to do business and enjoy yourself at the same time.
So, my advice when you travel? Make the extra effort and get to know the city you are visiting. And please feel free to share your recommendations with us. We’re always looking for new places to visit.
Chris Eisenberg runs Bartizan’s west coast office. Chris is a member of both the IAEM and NACS. Chris is the co-chair of and will become chairman in 2014 of the Southwest Chapter of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE). He earned his law degree from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Science in Broadcasting & Film from Boston University.