Protecting your evangelist/advocates : Part 1 – Have a plan to get home post event

Evangelists and advocates are asked to be public figures, that means they expose themselves to potential harassment and risk both online and in person. In this series, I will share some practical tips and tricks to help ensure the safety of yourself and your team

Our first tip comes from @TheTrendyTechie, Co-Founder & CTO of Crescendo, and it’s a good one “Have a plan to get home after the event”

Many evangelists and advocates attend events and conferences. You don’t want to find yourself stranded outside a building in a neighborhood you don’t know so here are a few simple things you can do to ensure you have a safe ride back to your hotel or office.

Person standing in the rain at night on desolated street with cell phone battery at 3%

Uh-Oh!

Ensure you will have access to a charged phone

A simple step to ensure you get home safe, is to make sure you have a charge left on your phone at the end of the day. You may need to request a cab/ride-share, or look up directions for walking or driving. Before you walk out the door for that flight or taxi ride do the following:

  1. Fully charge your phone
  2. Put the phone in low battery mode so the battery lasts as long as possible
  3. Charge and carry a portable battery charger as a back up in case your phone runs out of battery

Ensure you will have internet access on your phone

Having a phone without data is not a lot of use in this day of taxi and navigation apps.

  • Don’t rely on wi-fi at the event. Event wi-fi is notoriously unreliable and might even be disabled by the time you leave. $8 for a one day roaming package or $20 for a local SIM card is a small price to pay for your safety.

If you are planning to purchase a local SIM card

  • Make sure your phone is SIM Unlocked and will work with a SIM Card from other providers
  • Bring your passport with you to purchase the SIM card, many countries have ‘traveller’ SIM Cards which can only be activated if you show your passport
  • Find out ahead of time if you can purchase a local SIM. Japan, e.g. does not sell local SIM cards, but you can purchase a pocket wi-fi and use that to get internet access for your phone, tablet, and laptop

Learn from Susan’s mistake: After being stranded and unable to create a taxi account in Malaysia because all the ride-share and taxi apps require a local phone number. I realized I needed a local SIM. The next morning, I got up early and walked 20 minutes to a local store to purchase a SIM Card. The staff told me they could not activate the card unless I had my passport, which was back at my hotel. I did not have time to go back to the hotel and get it before my next meeting. I had to muddle through the entire day getting co-workers to order my taxis and finding ways to repay them until I had another chance to purchase a SIM card.

Figure out your transportation options BEFORE you get to the venue

  1. Does the city have a ride share program such as Uber/Lyft/Grab? Do you have the required app installed and an account created?
  2. If the city does not have a ride-share program such as Uber/Lyft/Grab/ is there a city wide taxi app you can install and use to order the nearest cab? These tend to find cabs faster than apps for specific taxi companies.
  3. If you are going to be using a new cab or ride share service, install the app and create the account with billing information BEFORE you leave for the event. I was at a university outside Singapore with a fully charged phone and a data plan. When I tried to create an account on the Grab and the local taxi app it required a local phone number, which I did not have! I had to get a co-worker to order my a ride, and the next day I had to purchase a local SIM card so I could create an account and order my own rides
  4. If you will be at an event away from the city centre, you may want to rent a car instead of assuming you can get a taxi.

Learn from Susan’s mistake: I once spent over an hour waiting for a taxi at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada. I did not know Vancouver has no ride share programs and a shortage of taxis. I did not have the generic Vancouver taxi app installed. It was raining, and when I called the taxi company they told me my taxi would arrive in approximately one hour. I was on a university campus at a building with multiple entrances. I spent over an hour constantly scanning the streets looking for my taxi and hoping no-one else had taken my cab. Apparently catching cabs on rainy or snowy days in Vancouver is always a challenge. I now rent a car any time I have events in Vancouver outside the downtown core.

Use the app not the phone number

Always use an application to order your ride instead of calling the taxi company.

  • Using an app often allows you to track the location of your ride
  • Most apps give you and the driver the ability to contact each other if they can’t find you.
  • The app provides a record of who drove you in the event you leave something in the taxi or need to complain about any sort of harassment

Learn from Susan’s mistake: I was in Malaysia and used the Grab app to order a ride from the airport to my hotel. I left an expensive digital camera in the back of the car! I was able to contact Grab and report the lost item. The driver located the camera in the back seat, and for a small fee drove back to the hotel and left it at the front desk while I was out during the day!

Be prepared to walk

Despite your best efforts, sometime ordering a taxi or ride-share does not work out. Sometimes you can walk down the road to public transit or a better location to find a taxi.

If your event shoes are impractical for walking, consider throwing some foldable flats in your purse so you have decent walking shoes in a pinch. (Of course @TrendyTechie would know that you can buy fashionable foldable flats, though she tells me she did not purchase the zebra stripes)

Learn from Susan’s mistake: I was at an event at the science museum in Chicago. They provided shuttle service to the event, but there was no shuttle service when the event ended around 10 PM. There were about 400 people all leaving the event at the same time trying to find taxis and ubers. It was a mess. Fortunately, I was wearing practical shoes and had a 6 foot+ tall male co-worker with me. The two of us walked about 500 meters towards a L-Train stop figuring we could take an L-train into downtown. As it turns out we found a well lit street corner and flagged down a taxi just as we approached the L-Train.

Catching an early flight to the airport? Ask the hotel to arrange your transportation

Take advantage of your hotel concierge, especially if you are booking one of those dreaded 4 AM rides for an early flight. Why would I rely on the hotel instead of a cheaper ride-share?

  • You can’t be sure of finding a ride share service in a timely manner at 4 AM, showing up 20 minutes late for an event is one thing, missing your flight is quite another
  • The hotel may have a free or cheap airport shuttle service, these often require booking ahead of time
  • If the taxi does not show up at the expected time, the hotel now has some responsibility for finding you alternate transportation
  • The hotel (should) have a reliable and safe transportation company

Summary

A little common sense goes a long way when it comes to personal safety. If you are travelling internationally always ask the locals for any additional tips they can share to keep you safe. Attending events and travelling for work can be a wonderful experience, following the tips above will reduce your stress and keep you safe. Share your own tips so we can update this post and provide great suggestions for future posts!

 

 

 

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