Even if you’re a savvy traveler with hundreds of miles under your shoes, it doesn’t hurt to review some tried and true travel etiquette tips. Because no matter how smart, accomplished, or attractive you are, if you make a major faux pas in front of a decision maker, the deal’s probably not getting done.
Here’s a review of business etiquette for the traveling executive. If you travel often, especially out of the country, be sure to take a few minutes and research the business etiquette and customs of that country or region—it may mean the difference between a successful or disastrous business trip.
Better overdressed than underdressed. Assuming you know the basics of professional dress, just some reminders are in order. Stick with timeless styles and darker colors—they visually demand more respect. Dress one over your paygrade, or for the position you want for your next promotion. When traveling, be sure to check the weather and dress appropriately for the temperature. You don’t want to be the only guy in the room with a sweater on. Make sure your clothes are neatly pressed. Most hotels have irons in them. In a pinch, hang up your clothes in the bathroom and run a hot shower to steam them. And if you haven’t gone shopping in a while, commit to doing so to freshen up your wardrobe.
The art of the handshake. A good handshake is an art full of variables, such as the right timing and pressure. Done correctly, it can show your confidence and create rapport with associates. Don’t extend your hand too early to seem overly eager, and don’t squeeze too hard as to intimidate or cause pain. Also, remember to smile and make good eye contact. When traveling abroad, research the customs and etiquette of that country or region. When in Asian countries, for example, refrain from shaking too hard or too long, and don’t make direct eye contact. A good rule of thumb is to follow the lead of the person you are looking to impress.
Napkin on the lap. As mentioned in the opening, no matter how smart, accomplished or attractive you are, a major faux pas at a meal can ruin the deal. Even if your coworkers or guests are less than formal, stay true to the rules of mealtime etiquette — you never know who’s watching, and it can only benefit your career. Some things to remember: Never talk with your mouth full, take small bites, and be nice to the wait staff. You won’t impress your guest by being overly particular. Also, come to the meal with a few topics to discuss besides business. When in doubt, ask your guest about something you know he or she is interested in, such as golf or wine tasting.
Don’t be a stingy tipper. The old adages, “Money talks” and “Don’t be stingy,” strongly apply when you’re on the road. Tip well at airports, restaurants, hotels—and anywhere a harried business traveler needs a little extra help to get what’s needed. Don’t forget to tip housekeepers, too. Be generous and the staff will take care of you. And in most cases, you can get reimbursed as a travel expense.
Snail mail can go far. Business people are bombarded with emails. In our technological age, you can really stand out by doing a simple thing: handwrite a request, reminder or thank you card. Pick a simple, classy card, and keep it short and tasteful, with phrases such as, “I just wanted to remind you,” and “I’m looking forward to our meeting.” Of course, make sure the recipient’s name and title are spelled correctly.