The New Rules of the Road


Keep these in mind when on your next business trip


Is it me or was no one wearing earth tones in 2004? Really. That surprised me 'cause I found myself in Vegas a lot in 2004. Was there for IBM PartnerWorld, Veritas' partner conference and an Ingram Micro GovEd event, just to name a few. And it was all black, day and night.

Time was when Vegas meant more earth tones, the way that San Diego and Miami used to mean pastels. No more. Vegas is black, baby. All black, save for white dress shirts with blue checks. No stripes. And no ties, unless you plan on making up for gambling losses by waiting on tables.

Why is any of that important? Because, chances are, you're going to be in Vegas this year. That's despite the fact that Comdex is dead--or at least mothballed. (But really, it's dead.) If you're like I am and travel often for your career in this industry, then Vegas is where you'll be heading in 2005. IBM's PartnerWorld is there (again). So is Juniper's partner event, NetWorld+Interop and my own company's XChange Tech Builder event for systems builders.

Personally, I'm planning on traveling differently this year. Shrinking hotel soaps, cheap bed linens and fewer complimentary lint-grabbing mitts have prompted me to rethink everything about business travel. So let me go over five new rules.

Rule No. 1: Register early for everything. I have already signed up to go to every event on planet Earth. No, I am not going to ISQED 2005 (the event for "quality electronic design"), but I'm signed up nonetheless. That means I have a reservation, which means I have a hotel room somewhere in the vicinity of where the event is actually happening. Novel idea, no?

Rule No. 2: Don't stay at any hotel that requires a map to find your way around. If a desk clerk at a hotel hands you a map with a route drawn in highlighter, then here's a news flash: Your career is careening off-course. Whoever sends you to an event in a hotel like that not only doesn't care whether you benefit from attending, but honestly doesn't care if you ever get to or, moreover, return from said event. Last year, if I recall, I stayed three days at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., the largest hotel in the state. Pretty, in a sort of you'd-never-want-to-be-there-unless-someone-sent-you-to-die-of-boredom sort of way. Huge, biodome kind of place with so many additions that it reminded me of something out of "Little Shop of Horrors" or "Beetlejuice." Worst part: Everything was seven or so miles away despite the fact I was already "in the building." After three days of exasperation, a VAR pulled me aside and told me, "The trick is to remember your elevator number and follow the signs to it."

Elevator number? I can't remember which floor I'm on half the time. Again: If you're at a place that has numbered bans of elevators, you're not among an exclusive crowd.

Rule No. 3: Never stay until the end of an event. A few times last year, I agreed to speak on closing-day sessions at industry events. Never again. The three times I agreed to that I spoke to a total of 11 people. All very nice people, mind you, but the kind of people who didn't notice that my suitcase was 7 feet away. I've come to realize that there's an inverse relationship between the proximity of a speaker's suitcase and the amount of usable information he or she is likely to share. If you're asked to speak, make sure it's on the day that the CEO who is hosting the event is speaking.

Rule No. 4: Have an escape plan. Thanks to Yahoo and other services, you can send a "reminder" to your mobile any time you want. Truth be told, I have one sent 35 minutes into any meeting I'm unsure of. That ring gives me cover to escape if needed, and 35 minutes should cover anything.

Rule No. 5: Never drink white. For some reason, no one is drinking white wine anymore. Gotta be red. And not just a wimpy Gamay or Trollinger or even something a bit more elegant, such as a Pinot Noir, or even a more velvety wine such as a Zinfandel. Nope, gotta be a meaty Cabernet or Bordeaux. For some reason, that says business. To me, it means sleep. Trying to impress with a bottle of Opus One 1995? OK. But after two Stolis and two glasses of Chilean Bodega Lurton, who retains anything? If you want to survive the road, don't drink red. Too many headaches, too many missed tipping points. Confused? Then follow me: Drink champagne. It says, "I'm listening to every word, though I'll be discreet about what I remember."

It's perfect for a town whose motto is, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas"--or anywhere else for that matter.

Happy travels.

T.C. Doyle is senior executive editor at VARBusiness. You can reach him at tcdoyle@cmp.com.