I have a smart phone, so do I really even need to bring a laptop with me when I travel for business anymore?
That is the question I wanted to explore during the last five days in Austin, Texas. I brought both with me, but primarily used one throughout this experiment.
Smart Phones: The Good
I’m definitely not an Apple fanboy, but during my stint at the Social Business Summit and SXSW the iPhone delivered 95% of the functionality I needed as a conference attendee in a foreign city. These were the high points:
portability No question, the smart phone wins in this department. Lugging a laptop around everywhere you go can bog you down, while simultaneously cramping your style if you’re unable to ditch it. The idea of having a computer in your pocket while on the go in a new city is very appealing, and allows you to nimbly navigate your way through the gauntlet of different sessions, gatherings, and parties.
real time communication Communicating with people is huge at conferences. You want to be able to maximize your hang out time with certain individuals, or maximize your ability to run into them, and that can be chaotic at large venues. Talk and text are still great ways to coordinate rendezvous points with people whose telephone numbers you know, but it’s also great to use Twitter and foursquare to broadcast where you are and locate people you follow.
connection Ease of communication, in turn, leads to connection. The mobile smart phone can replace serendipitous encounters altogether, while also enabling a special kind of randomness that makes big conferences worth attending. For example, I was able to meet and have dinner with Peldi, the creator of Balsamiq after noticing this tweet from him on my phone. Awesome guy, by the way.
meeting people I intentionally did not bring business cards this trip because I thought back to the connections I made at Blog World Expo last year and how big of a role business cards played in the relationships I was able to develop since that time. Based on what I’ve seen, the business card is dead. We hand them out to one another, but what happens next? Often times, nothing. Which is making way for mobile service apps like LinkedIn and Bump to take over. I used both applications and am excited to see if they produce better relationship building results for me post conference.
relationship building Along those same lines though, just finding out somebody’s Twitter user name and following/listing them from your phone as you meet them will really help in the relationship building process. As time goes by after the conference, there may not ever really be a need to pick up the phone to catch up with somebody you met at a conference. But when you’re able to see their status updates on a daily basis two things happen: 1. they stay top of mind for you, and 2. you can cherry pick the responses to certain things that they say, giving you something to build on.
compass The ability to easily find out where you are in relation to where you want to go makes having a Smart Phone at a business conference almost a necessity in and of itself. When you only need to know the name of a destination, and not where it is or how to get there, exploring on your own becomes an exhilarating experience. You don’t have to do what the group your with does if you don’t want to, because you can find your way around and meet back up with them later using your Smart Phone’s communication and connection tools.
Smart Phones: The Bad
There is really only one bad thing that I can think of, when it comes to solely relying on a Smart Phone at a business conference, and that has to do with typing large quantities of text. It’s obviously not appealing to type paragraphs of information from a Smart Phone, so if you’re live blogging or polishing up the manuscript on your memoirs, then you’ll more than likely still need a laptop to perform those functions.
I did use my laptop during my trip to update this blog, so I don’t know that I could personally get away with not bringing a tool to provide me with blogging capability. Netbooks serve that function and are very lightweight, so I still wouldn’t need to bring a laptop with me, by definition.
After this trip though, I am now a firm believer in the smart phone as an indispensable, all-in-one business tool at conferences. A tool that allows you to engage and be productive after cutting the strap off your laptop bag.