Don't diss the safety briefing or dismiss the cabin crew's inflight service – there's a lot you can learn from them about how to present yourself to your clients.
You’ve boarded your flight and eagerly awaiting take-off, but first there's that safety video to watch – or, in the case of many travellers, to pretend to watch or just outright ignore. (Which is very wrong, by the way).
Apart from paying attention because safety is actually a Good Thing, there are some good lessons an experienced flight attendant can teach and reinforce about professional presenting – here they are.
Lesson one: superb eye contact
If you’re stretching out in an exit row, your flight attendant will hold eye contact with you during the customary pre-flight briefing as you acknowledge his or her message about being able to push out the door in an emergency.
They’ll hold eye contact with you for up to seven seconds and not simply scan over you, look down or stare blankly at the safety card.
Most presenters look at their audience for only 1-3 seconds at a time, which fails to make a subconscious connection with the crowd as you always to appear to be looking for someone else – like a sleaze at a networking function.
Hold eye contact for about 7-8 seconds. Make your point, then move on. Your audiences will feel far more connected. And no, it’s not seen as stalking: just committed to the message and professional.
Lesson two: smile and look interested
We’ve all met Grumpy Bum, the jaded flight attendant who should probably be running a $2 shop in Gippsland instead of doing this job.
We notice them. We talk about them. We deride them to our colleague sitting in 48C.
Your audiences can tell if you’re phoning it in too.
Think about how many times your flight attendant has delivered those safety messages. The professional ones do it right every time and you can’t tell if it’s their 5th or 5,000th flight.
You may have delivered that corporate overview or technical road map a hundred times; the audience hasn’t and they need to see you smile, look interested and engaging as if it’s your first time.
It’s called professionalism and it’s what the casts of Les Misérables, Wicked or Phantom of the Opera do every night without fail.
Lesson three: body language that tells a story
It may be easy to mock the outstretched arms highlighting where the exits are, but there’s no doubt about the clarity of the message and who is drawing the attention.
Most presenters who use their hands gesture slightly inside their body: making them look less convincing and too modest. Put down your coffee, and watch the flight attendant demonstrate.
Nearly all of the gestures are outside the body, which is the natural arc for the story they are telling.
You can command the room with gestures and hand movements outside the body, and the eyes of your audience will follow you.
So, before you put your head down in your book, watch the flight attendant on your next flight and reflect on how you can make your next presentation more powerful.
If you succeed, your audience won’t be looking for the exits.
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