Posts Tagged ‘safety’

Protecting your evangelist/advocates: Part 2 – hotel safety

Working as an evangelist or advocate can mean travelling for conferences and events. There are a few things you can do to reduce the chance of encountering harassment. In this post I will share hotel safety tips:

Don’t stay at the conference hotel

The conference hotel may be very convenient, but it is not ideal if you are trying to reduce the chance of unwanted attention.

One of the ways to reduce the chance of unwanted attention and harassment is to draw clear lines between your work and personal life. That is difficult when you stay at a conference hotel. Conference hotels become an extension of the conference itself. Your hotel room might be the only personal space you have, and even that may not be quite as private as it seems. You may have attendees in an adjoining hotel room who can hear your conversations (especially if you have one of those rooms with the connecting door).

Since conferences are all about networking, attendees hanging out at the conference hotel may feel it is perfectly reasonable approaching you outside regular conference hours.

Two people running on treadmills one is focus and running the other is talking

You dress professionally for the conference, which sets a professional tone for any conversations with attendees. But, at some point you will likely be headed out in more casual clothing. When an attendee has the opportunity to chit chat with you in casual clothing it makes the conversation feel more personal, they are hanging out with you *outside* work.  Imagine you are in a city like Atlanta and have plans to go grab a nice dinner with friends. Atlanta is generally pretty hot. A guy might throw on shorts and a light shirt, a girl might throw on a light summer dress and sandals. It’s wonderful to ditch the conference shirt after working a booth, or attending a networking event. What you don’t want is to end up being cornered by an attendee in the hotel lobby in your shorts or dress as you wait for your Uber. What if you want to go for a run? Do you really want to meet attendees in the elevator when you are wearing lycra shorts or tights?

If you are staying at the conference hotel, treat all your time in the hotel as professional time, dress and act accordingly.

Don’t stay in the bedroom attached to the hospitality suite

Sometimes companies will sponsor a networking event, or host meetings in a hospitality suite at a hotel. Many of these hospitality suites have an adjoining bedroom. Hey awesome, says the company, we get a free hotel room with the hospitality suite. Even if that room has it’s own lock, that’s still bringing people very close to your personal space. Now someone knows exactly where your room is. At some point it’s possible someone might even go into the bedroom, entering your personal space. Keep your sleeping quarters well separated from the place where you are inviting people for meetings and networking events.

Always use the bolt on the hotel room door

You know the chain, or the flip bolt that prevents housekeeping from walking in if you happen to be on a conference call when they drop by to clean your room? Yeah, use it! Not just because you may be doing work in your hotel room during the day and you might forget to put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door.

Unfortunately, hotels occasionally make mistakes. It is rare, but I have two friends, who checked into their hotel, went up to their rooms, opened the door to discover the room was already occupied! The hotel had accidentally assigned them rooms that were already in use. One of my friends was arriving at around 2 AM when the current guest was in bed! Fortunately both friends caught on to the situation quickly and were able to leave without freaking out the current guests, but it’s a good reminder that the bolt is your friend!

Master your “don’t talk to me” look

When you work as an evangelist or advocate you want to be approachable. You want people to feel like they can come talk to you after your talk, or at the booth.  You need to practice how to look un approachable as well.  I will smile and greet everyone I meet when I am on the clock at the booth. But when I walk away, I consciously switch gears and demeanour. There are a number of ways to be less approachable:

  • Wear headphones
  • Look busy with your phone
  • Walk briskly with purpose
  • Have a co-worker or friend walk with you and be so engrossed in the conversation with them you can’t be interrupted
  • Practice your best “resting b*tch face” so you look grumpy or angry

Sadly this can be important even when dealing with hotel staff. I do have an acquaintance who used to smile and be friendly with the staff whenever she walked into a hotel. One trip, she had issues with the concierge calling her room, and then he showed up outside her hotel room door! Now she does her best ‘Don’t talk to me” when walking through the hotel lobby. Unfortunate, that one jerk out of 10,000 people you meet forces someone to act this way. 9,999 out of those 10,000 would simply smile back and never be a problem.

Be deliberate about where you eat and drink in the hotel

If you sit at the hotel bar, you are leaving yourself open to have anyone come and sit down next to you. You can bring a book or laptop with you to the bar, which is like a virtual ‘do not disturb’ sign, but that does not prevent someone sitting beside you and trying to strike up a conversation. Also being at a bar, there is a higher risk the person trying to strike up a conversation may be inebriated which creates a higher risk of uncomfortable situations and escalations.

If you sit at a table, someone might stop by and say hello, but for them to sit at your table uninvited would be highly unusual!  You can also ask the restaurant staff for a table off to the side or less visible if you do not want to be disturbed.

Don’t assume the ‘platinum club’ lounge is a safe haven. Many people who attend conferences our frequent travellers and will have access to the club lounge.  Treat the lounge as you would the hotel bar. In fact it can be worse, because

  • You don’t have a bartender to step in if needed (bartenders can be quite helpful when you have unwanted attention from someone else at the bar, many of them know the signs and will try to rescue you as best as they can)
  • Everyone else in the platinum club lounge has something in common with you, so you’ve provided an opening for conversation “Hey you stay at Marriott all the time as well! I find the W so much better than the Westin don’t you? Have you stayed at the one in Manhattan with the amazing desserts?”.

Trust your instincts in the elevator

Once in a while, I get in the elevator and someone gets into the elevator with me who makes me nervous. In these situations, play it safe. If the other person is harmless, no harm done. If the other person is going to be/or has already been a problem, you want to avoid having them in order of highest to lowest risk A) Follow you to your room; B) Find out your room location; C) Find out your floor.

Let them select their floor number first. Once they have selected their floor number you have a few choices. Which option you choose depends how much your spidey sense is tingling, and how easy it is for someone staying at the hotel to get off on someone else’s floor.

If they selected a lower floor than yours:

  • Select the floor one above or below your own. Once they get off the elevator, you can select the correct floor. Worst case you ride the elevator to the wrong floor, and ride it back down again.

If they punched in a floor number higher than yours, or you are at one of those hotels where you can only punch in the floor coded to your room key, or you are just feeling really uncomfortable:

  • Have a ‘darn I forgot to stop by the front desk’ moment, and select the floor for the hotel lobby. You can even walk over to the front desk to ask if they have toothpaste, or late checkout, if you want to carry the charade through. Or you can just wait until the elevator doors close and take the next elevator.

If you found this post helpful, check out the other developer relations posts including other posts in the safety series. If you are looking for help with your developer relations work or are interested in having me speak at your event reach out on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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!

If you found this post helpful, check out the rest of my developer relations posts. If you are looking for help with your developer relations work or are interested in having me speak at your event reach out on Twitter or LinkedIn