Recently, I was asked to speak on a worldwide forum featuring women in various roles. During my introductory meeting with them, Gratitude and Re-Focus turned out to be the focal points. Hence, it was decided as our topic for the interview. We felt it was worth sharing this perspective, especially in these COVID times. The interaction received an overwhelming response.
In the post interview de-brief with the team, I was asked about my previous experience as a presenter/public speaker. What is the best advice I have received and how do I connect with an audience? I have conducted a few workshops and presentations but the one thing that came to mind was my announcements in the aircraft. I told them that my tools of humor, honesty and timing were all cultivated by that experience. I had not realized until now, how much impact those Passenger Addresses had on me. It shaped my confidence and ability for public speaking. These PAs taught me more about audience interaction than any course ever could.
You are probably wondering what is the big deal about in-flight announcements? I consider it as the Captain’s only direct communication and interaction with the travelers. During my personal travels and as a co-pilot, I encountered all kinds of PAs. Some too long, some too short, some ill-timed and sometimes… none at all. I bet most of you can identify with these :). I was asked to make the PA a few times as “practice” and on other times as “delegation”. I used to imagine what I would say to my passengers, how I could catch their attention and make it interesting for them. 😊
What would I like to hear my Captain say? That was a good premise to start with. I most enjoyed listening to funny bits from the cockpit and noticed that it rarely happened. In my experience Humor relaxes everyone instantly. I use it a lot and it comes naturally to me. It invariably gets a great response. Even if just a few passengers listen, understand and it makes them smile, my job is done!
Another mantra, I learnt from one of my favorite Captains was to always be honest with your passengers. Honesty is underrated. By respecting the passenger’s intellect and capacity to understand the situation, I get them to see my perspective. It has always worked even in the worst of situations. One time, my co-pilot made a (much) harder touchdown than usual. He was ready to jump out of the window and hide. After I told him to relax and checked with the crew for their safety at the back, I made a PA to acknowledge the hard landing. I was the Captain and ultimately responsible. I explained how, even though it was not pretty, it was acceptable in technical terms as a ‘positive’ touchdown. I said “We try to make a smooth landing every single time! Many times we succeed but sometimes, we don’t. We will do better next time!” The passengers’ and the crews’ reaction is what reassured me that showing your vulnerable side can, in fact, be rewarding. They thanked us for our candor and wished us well as they left the aircraft. I was told there was some clapping too! 👏 Hard to imagine! (I never mentioned the co-pilot to anyone and gave him the next landing to resurrect himself 😊)
Lastly, I learnt to make the audience the focus. I always want to make their journey a memorable experience and do it with a big smile on my face, which transmits even through the microphone!😊 I realize that the ease with which a Captain speaks, the voice itself, has the ability to put a nervous flyer at ease, get a child excited and make an elder feel safe. The passenger is the Guest, the most important person in the aircraft and the Captain can make him/her feel that! A Captain was once kind to me as a child and look at where it led me!
I am grateful for every life that has touched me and humbled by every life I have touched. Attaching the link to the interview, in case it interests anyone. For the announcement, you will have to fly with me!! 🛫✈💺🛬 ;)))
Until next time…Over and out! @thethinkingcaptain