Five ways to rehearse your next sales presentation on a plane

By Elliot Epstein, March 19 2015
Five ways to rehearse your next sales presentation on a plane

You’ve got a huge presentation to deliver an hour after you land.

Your client, leadership team, regional executives or fellow industry experts expect you to be good, but you had no time to fully prepare the whole presentation because it was chaos back at the office and there are still 292 unread emails sitting in your Inbox.

Now you have anywhere from one to 15 hours on a plane without interruption (except from the boring guy next to you with halitosis who wants to sell you something).

Here are five ways you can maximise your time to be able to present like a star the minute you reach your destination.

1. Edit like a film director

I can’t see your presentation from the AusBT website, but I’ll bet it has too much information.

Consider this: filmmakers typically cut from 8-10 hours of footage to get the final 2 hour edit you see at the cinema.

Ask yourself one question: “Why am I showing them this?”

If you don’t have an 8/10 reason, get rid of it. It will distil the focus to the content your audience really wants and keeps them engaged.

2. Stop wasting time on the graphics, fonts, fly-ins, fades and frippery

I know you’re a bit bored, the movie has finished and there’s still a way to go, but it’s unproductive to muck around with the graphics.

Choose a template, sans serif font (easier on the eye), blue-ish background and something like a 24-point minimum font size. That took three minutes. Search your hard drive for suitable images and you’re done.

Remember that 10% of your audience is colour blind and 30-40% have some sort of vision problem requiring contact lenses or glasses, so make it really easy to see.

If you see a slide that requires an intro like “This is a bit hard to read so I’ll take you through it…” hit ‘delete slide’.

3. Deliver it out loud

Okay… some of you are going to baulk at this for fear of social embarrassment, but let’s look at the options and why it’s important.

Often the first time the words come out of your mouth is when you’re live in front of an audience. Links and key points of your presentation are fluffed because you didn’t rehearse.

If you’re in business class you should be able to stand freely, find a spare metre and deliver your presentation out loud (an airplane's own lounge anea can be good for this).

An aircraft's business class lounge can be a good space to work on your presentation
An aircraft's business class lounge can be a good space to work on your presentation

The person in 2B will look at you for a second and then go back to their music or 525-page book on Leadership. Get over it.

If you can rehearse your presentation out loud knowing where the pauses, highlights and key stories are, you will be streets ahead in confidence by the time you get there.

If you’re traveling with a colleague, ask them to listen to the presentation. Don’t discuss it, defend it or justify why you’ve put the numbers in first... just deliver it. Get feedback. Review.

4. Watch it back from the audience’s perspective

Consider all members of the audience – key players, influencers, sceptics, hangers-on.

Now, take your presenter hat off and watch the presentation back from each audience member’s perspective.

Is there something compelling in your ‘movie’ for each of them? If not, weight the presentation differently so that everyone is included and engaged.

Re-watch your presentation and think about its content as an outsider
Re-watch your presentation and think about its content as an outsider

5. Your physical preparation

If you are literally about to disembark and present, you need to warm up, just like you would for sport.

You may not have spoken much on the plane, or may have dozed off. Warm up your voice by humming (stick the headphones on if you’re still worried about the guy next to you).

Don’t drink chilled water or fizzy drinks because it constricts vocal chords and causes hiccups. Choose room temperature water, tea or black coffee and give the booze a miss.

When you rehearse, the audience will love and respect you for it and that’s the result you want.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter – we're @AusBT


Elliot Epstein is a presentation coach and CEO of Salient Communication, and trains high-profile corporates to be ‘pitch perfect’ whether they're on the road or in the air.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Nov 2013

Total posts 12

On delivering it out loud, see if the crew are free to practise it with! Chances are they are looking for someone interesting to chat to!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 567

Some great tips.

Gets me wondering if at some stage in the future, an airline would champion some sort of business networking platform for in-flight. Could be as simple as a business card exchange at the bar for those who opt in or something a little more deliberate like a mock presentation?

Food for thoght I guess.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Nov 2013

Total posts 473


Your #1 tip should read "Drop PowerPoint and start using Prezi" 

And good advice re the water - chilled water caught me out a few years ago...



13 Sep 2013

Total posts 114

I'd be ropable if some guy got up in the row in front of me mid-flight and delivered a presentation out loud in the busn class cabin!!! Think of the ppl that would be disrupted from their work, sleep, book etc.

PS. No one actually uses PowerPoint anymore. Anything worthwhile is all done in Prezi 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Nov 2013

Total posts 473

I wish that were true S in relation to Prezi. I switched about 4 years ago and I'm still amazed when 15mins into my workshop there will be the question - what are you using to present...

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Jul 2012

Total posts 35

I find it amusing that, so far, 50% of the comments are concerned about what software to use. I was taught that PP, or whatever package you use, are merely tools and presentations can use them but they do not form the basis of a presentation. A good presenter does not need 'slides'.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Mar 2014

Total posts 132

Plenty of people use PowerPoint. Prezi is a bit of a joke. Its not a professional presentation solution, has not notes facility, is not good for AV techs to monitor the presentation with and all too often requires an internet connection. It also gets very boring after a while and certainly needs alot more thought put into the presentations.

Keynote is good, or rather 'was' good. The new version has plenty of bugs and seems more restricted than earlier versions.

Overall PowerPoint 2013 is the best solution. Tried and tested.

Just need to make sure people dont make their presentation in 4:3 when it should be 16:9!!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2199

Prezi is great for first-year undergraduate presentations, but that's about it.

23 Mar 2015

Total posts 1

Great article and terrific tips, but some of the comments below have really missed the point. It is an article on how to get yourself ready for a great presentation. How to edit and then edit again and how to enure that the display of words, pictures and graphics behind you doesn't outshine, or embarass, the person in front of it. It is not a debate about whether my software is better than your software.

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