Heading to GBTA ‘19 in Chicago, IL? Eager to get all you can out of the conference? Have no fear! A seasoned GBTA-attendee is here.
My name is Rob Fugett, and I’m the Director of National Sales for Stay Alfred. I’ve been attending GBTA since 2001 – representing several allied member companies – and am an active member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter. Throughout my many years as a GBTA attendee, I’ve gleaned some fantastic insights on how to make the most of those precious days in the convention center, and I hope the tips that follow can be of help to you and your colleagues.
Before I get started, though, I have to say that the Stay Alfred crew and I are excited to share our new campaign with you, so be sure to visit us at booth 4107. You’ll also have a chance to learn more about our VIT (Very Important Traveler) Program and Stay Alfred Rewards, which gives you a free night for every 10 nights stayed. Alright, enough of my salesman spiel. Let’s get into it!
Before you arrive at GBTA
Putting in the prep work is essential to your success as a GBTA attendee. Before the conference, download the GBTA Convention 2019 app – you’ll find it in the Apple Store or the Google Play store. The GBTA app can help you learn more about speakers and exhibitors, and it includes a handy map of the Expo Hall. Looking to find… say booth 4107? Fire up your app and you’ll be there in no time at all.
Strategize with your team
There is truly so much happening at GBTA that there’s no way you can possibly see everything. It’s best to strategize with your colleagues and or team members in advance. Rank which education sessions/speakers will be most beneficial to your team/company and, if available, make sure there’s someone from your crew at each lecture. You can use the GBTA app to choose which sessions you’d like to attend.
Pro tip: Most sessions will have the presentation available following the convention. Don’t be shy – GBTA volunteers will be on hand to answer questions and provide guidance on how to obtain. We guarantee these will be useful in the months that follow.
Practice your “about me”
The GBTA experience can sometimes be intimidating. First-time attendees may not have their “elevator pitch” quite yet perfected. In a fast-moving environment like GBTA, this can result in fewer connections achieved. Be sure to spend a couple of hours prior to the conference constructing what it is you do and are looking to accomplish in a couple of quick sentences. Practice it a handful of times. While it may seem silly, being able to confidently and quickly introduce yourself and your company is always a handy skill. You truly never know when you’ll meet your next mentor or big client at GBTA.
Once you're at the convention
Don’t just look for clients/suppliers. Search for mentors, too
GBTA is a gathering of some of the top minds and influential leaders in the travel industry. There’s a reason we at Stay Alfred refer to it as the “Super Bowl of Global Business Travel.” And one of my favorite attributes about this global travel community is the genuine kindness and personal interest among our industry colleagues. There is a pervasive idea among us “seasoned veterans” (aka repeat attendees) that it’s our job to seek out and mentor the next generation of professionals to secure the future of our industry.
While it can be tempting to hone your networking skills just on potential new clients/suppliers, I’d encourage you to really use GBTA as an opportunity to seek out mentors who can nurture and guide you. Their influence will likely end up paying out greater dividends providing you the right path to establishing important industry relationships. I’ve personally met many of my mentors attending GBTA conferences, and their impact on my career has been invaluable.
Take advantage of first-timers perks
No one loves being the new kid. But I’d argue that GBTA is one of the best environments to be a newbie. I know a number of seasoned GBTA vets, myself included, who actively seek out attendees with the “first-timer” ribbon to welcome and provide helpful advice. GBTA also hosts a lunch event for first-time attendees that I would strongly encourage you to attend.
Engage in Social Media
Admit It. We’re all social media FANATICS! It’s the times we live in and how most of us receive our news and entertainment. And GBTA is no place to stop engaging. The app provides attendees the opportunity to connect with each other and share highlights of the convention. Take that picture, post those comments and share the content. Remember to include #GBTA2019 and you might just get a retweet or two.
Give yourself transportation time
There’s a lot of people at GBTA. Like….. A lot. And all those people are going to be trying to get from the hotel to the convention center at the same time each day. Be sure to plan time into your day to wait for the hosted buses and/or ride share service, especially in the morning before the first session begins.
Wear comfortable shoes
I’m sure I sound like your mom at this point, reminding you to wear comfy shoes and sunscreen, but it’s a real pain point (ha!) for a lot of people. You’re going to be walking a lot at GBTA, to/from education sessions and across the Expo Hall. Unless you’re a demi-god who can go all day in 6-inch heels or brand new oxfords, I’d recommend being sure to wear something that you’ve already broken in and that you can wear comfortably all day. One year my Fitbit clocked over 8 miles in one day at GBTA. Prepare wisely when packing!
After the conference
Take time to rest, then follow up with your new connections
GBTA is an exciting three days of constantly moving action. By the end of it, there’s no shame in being a little tired. Be sure to take some time after the conference to relax and recharge. Then follow up with the contacts you made at GBTA. Even if it’s just to share how much you enjoyed meeting them, a short follow-up email goes a long way. And doing this a couple of days after the conference ends allows everyone to catch up on their impending internal communications.
P.S. Good Luck & HAVE FUN!