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Moderator or Road Warrior?


By Ron Sellers

Okay, here’s another question for you.  How do you feel about traveling in the morning and moderating in the evening?

This seems to be a significant conundrum – include travel days in the schedule, or collapse it into as few days as possible?

I see advantages to both approaches.  Let’s say you’ve got groups to do in Dallas and Chicago, and you live in Los Angeles.  It’s entirely possible to fly from LAX to Dallas on Monday morning, and moderate that evening, then fly from DFW to Chicago on Tuesday, and moderate again that evening.  If all goes well, the four groups are done in two days (plus another day to get home to LA after the groups).  Less time on the road, fewer hotel, car, and meal expenses, and more time to fit in other travel for other projects, although at the cost of some extremely long and tiring days.

But what if all doesn’t go well?  I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I was supposed to get from Ft. Wayne to Nashville in the morning, and moderate at night.  Ten inches of snow in Ft. Wayne killed that plan, so I rebooked out of Chicago and drove there to catch a flight.

Which was then delayed by five hours.  Goodbye, groups.  At least my client understood – his flight from DC to Nashville was cancelled and nothing else was available.

With fewer flights (also meaning fewer available seats if you need to rebook), the chances of missing or being late for groups has increased.  Leaving travel days in between groups and arriving the day before means far more options if something does happen, like a cancelled flight, a lost cabdriver, or a fender-bender on the way to the airport.  It also means more time to work while you’re traveling.  But it also turns four focus groups into a Monday-through-Friday trip.

Some decisions are obvious.  Getting from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the morning is short and simple, with a ton of options, so moderating that same evening is a no-brainer.  Getting from Seattle to Tampa in time to do groups the same day is pretty unlikely, so it’s an obvious travel day.  But what about cities that require a 6:00 a.m. flight (after staying up with the client until midnight the night before), or that put you on the ground three hours before the groups start?

I’d really love to get perspective from moderators, as well as from those of you on the client side, actually paying for the project.  What’s your policy on this issue, and why?


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One response to “Moderator or Road Warrior?

  1. This is a great post, Ron! It raises a point that sometimes gets lost as we try to save on travel time/cost and jam pack our schedules with groups. I’ve come to realize a couple of things about traveling the same day of the group. 1) It can be done with minimal stress levels if you arrive around noon, and your group isn’t until 5 or 6. Cutting it closer could be problematic. 2) It can depend entirely on time zones. On one project, my clients were flying from New Jersey to Vancouver. They arrived late the night before the groups (so that they could get a full day at the office in before traveling), but the groups lasted until 10pm, and everyone was still experiencing jet lag. The clients were beyond exhausted.

    Sometimes the night before just isn’t enough- maybe it’s the afternoon before. On a recent trip, I had an early morning group in Chicago. I booked a flight the night prior to the group, and the flight was cancelled, leaving me with one early morning option (and my only hope) to

    I have also learned to make special considerations when flying in and out of O’Hare…on-time flights are rare!

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