Tag: Life of a professional speaker

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Once in a while I post a “speaker war story” to get an idea of the world of being a global speaker. Then I go back to writing posts about how to become one.

So this war story took place in Dublin.

I was in a journey from Quebec (where my last speech was) and Gothenburg (where my next speech would be) and to get from Quebec to Gothenburg had turned out to be a bit more challenging that it looked on a map. I started in Quebec and flew Quebec-Montreal-Dublin-Stockholm-Gothenburg, a 17+ hour journey that would have me arrive the night before my speech in Gothenburg.

The problems started at my flight from Montreal to Dublin where the flight was almost 1 hour delayed because they were “waiting for a few connecting passengers” (The fact that a plane full of passengers who were on time might miss THEIR connecting flights in Dublin did not seem to cross the airlines mind.)

My flight was scheduled to land in Dublin at 10.05 AM, but being 1 hour delayed we landed at 11 AM.

My flight FROM Dublin to Stockholm was at 11.50…

50 minutes from “wheels on the ground” to “gate closed” might seem like a lot of time to catch a connecting flight, until you remember that I had to:

1) Pass passport control and customs in Ireland

2) Could not use “connecting flights gate” as I did not have a boarding pass for the next leg of my flight so I had:

a) to exit into the arrival terminal and

b) walk to the departures terminal

3) Check-in and get boarding pass.

4) Then had to go through security

5) and go through immigration (or as it should be called “emigration”…)

Oh, and 6) This is Dublin airport – one of those airports where they have stupidly decided to build the gates AWAY from the entrance to put in a series of what seems like 100’s of shops and restaurants so that it takes 5+ minutes after security just to run to the first gate.)

And to do all of that in less than 30 minutes before they close the gate.

Of course I made it.

So how? Here are som tips:

a) When exiting a plane walk briskly to pass the others who were on the plane to get first in passport control (queuing is what makes you miss flights)

b) Ask for help to save time.. Stop any airport employee to check if you can boarding cards inside the terminal or have to go outside.

c) Walk – do not run! – through customs and when you approach passport control (it’s seems to be a “thing” for people working there to mess with people who are in a hurry)

d) When you come to check-in: SMILE (a confident smile with a hint of begging), to get the check-in attendant to go the extra mile and call the gate and ask them to re-open it…

(Oh, and explain that you have no bags to check-in (to make her think you understand you are a frequent flier who knows it is possible to get you on that flight even if it is closed already.

Oh #2: Always pick a woman and always pick the woman who looks the happiest/friendliest. That will increase the chances of them helping you.

e) When she give you the boarding pass and says “Run!”, smile at her and say: “Thank you so much!”

f) At security, scan the different lines for which will be the fastest (and if possible look for security personal who are there to let “late passengers” cut infront of the line, if you are really late. (I did not do that this time, no need…)

g) When you come up to the security check, do NOT look stressed or annoyed about how long it takes, and take out belt, shoes, iPhone and computer etc (i.e. everything and then some so they do not get annoyed at you and decide to “randomly” select you.

And there you have it. How to make it to a flight that DEPARTS 50 minutes after you LAND.

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Most posts on this blog is about how to become better as a professional speaker, or how to develop the business side of speaking. But a few posts are about the life of a global, professional speaker.

This is one of those posts.

I am writing this on Saturday morning in Victoria, Canada.

I spent Monday at home with my family and ended it with a mentoring session for another speaker between 6 and 7 pm. Then I jumped on a plane that would be the beginning of an epic traveling week:

Since Monday evening I have flown:

Singapore-Doha-New York-Plattsburgh-(via car) Montreal-Calgary-Vancouver-Victoria.

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8 Airports and 4 speeches in 6 days.

The trick to being able to speak in as many countries as I do (23 countries last year) is to combine and condense the speeches so that I fly from one speech directly to the next.

Tomorrow Sunday I am flying Victoria-Toronto- Quebec where I will end my Canada speaking tour and board a plane to Frankfurt and onwards to Gothenburg for a speech there next week.

So if you want to be a global keynote speaker, be prepared to travel and plan your bookings so that you can fly straight from one speech to the next without going home in between.

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How to fly to the wrong country in order to make it to your speech…

Here is a tricky question for you:

What would you have done if you were me…?

I arrive at CDG airport at 10 AM for my flight to Toronto scheduled departure at 13:05 on July 11.

(Flight would arrive Toronto at 3 PM on July 11 and I was scheduled to speak to 5000 people at 10 AM the next day, July 12.)

When I try to check in I am asked: “Do you have an eTA?” (An eTA is a newly introduced new process for “electronic travel authorization”, similar to ESTA in the USA.)

The problem was that I was not aware of this new procedure, which was introduced in November 2016. (And neither were A LOT of other passengers on the same flight I was booked on who all had to rip out their mobile phone to go online and register.)

(Now, let’s pause for a second and acknowledge that the responsibility to find out that I needed an eTA was 100% mine (not the clients, not the travel agent who booked the ticket, not the airline and not the speaking agency who booked the speech for me. I had missed that the rules had changed. But you would think that Air Canada would inform their passengers at point of purchase…)

I went online to register (“It only takes a few minutes” the website said.) only to get a message “flagging me” and saying that I was not accepted but had to “submit some more documents”.

Now the hell begun.

The email did not state WHAT document needed to be submitted and to be able to submit the document I had to register on a separate web service and “link” my eTA application to this other account – the problem was that that did not work.

And after trying for 5 times I get THROWN OUT of the service with a message that says: “you have tried to log in 5 times and are now blocked from logging in again for 24 hours…”

Ops.

No eTA (meaning the airline could not let me on the plane.)
No way to submit it until at least 24 hours has past (which is past my speaking slot already…)
No one to talk to (“this is a computer, you can not talk to anyone”, said the poor Air Canada women who with sadness in her voice communicated “there is nothing we can do, expect book you on a flight 24 hours from now” …

It was now past check-in time for my flight to Toronto and that was the last flight to Canada to arrive in time for my speech on the morning of the 12th.

What would you have done?

I called my agency and said: “I think we might have a bit of a problem…”

And then I added: “I just want you do be in the loop, now let’s see if I can fix this…”

I went to another Air Canada employee (Lesson: Never trust the information of just one airline employee in a crisis.)

He confirmed that there was no way to get to Canada BUT he then added: “It is only people who FLY into Canada who need eTA, if you drive in to Canada you do not need it…”

He then recommended I fly to Rochester in the north of New York, USA and then DRIVE into Toronto (!)

A glimmer of hope opened up.

Went online and googled “Flights from CDG to Rochester”.

Good News: Turns out there was a flight leaving with Air France at 4.40 PM arriving at 22.22 PM in Rochester.
It would then be a 3.30 hours drive from there to Toronto…

I would arrive at around 2.30 AM in Toronto.

(Luckily I have a ESTA for the USA already.)

Bad News: There were only tickets left in Premium Economy – and First Class (no business class seats left)

Premium Economy = 3300 Euro.

First Class = 8200 Euro (!) One way…

The client had already agreed on a budget for Business Class, the fault of not getting the eTA in time is mine, not theirs. What would you do?

Fly Premium Economy and give the savings back to the client – but risk not sleeping so well on the plane?

Bite the bullet and pay for the extra cost of the first class ticket out of your own money?

I bought the first class ticket…
The result being that my fee for speaking at this event went down considerably …

I have to take it on the “Leaning and development account”…

When I am in the First class lounge (eating lobster as it were) I decide to google a bit.

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Find out that there is also a flight from New York to Buffalo (which is more than one hour CLOSER to Toronto by car, and the flight arrives around the same time as the Rochester flight. That would save me more than one hour of driving = one more hour of sleep…

I rebook my flight.

(Lesson: Never trust airline personel to have your best option in mind, not because they are nasty, but because they might not be seeing your whole problem.)

Call client to tell them I have found a solution – and ask them to book me a car + driver to pick me up in Buffalo at 22.30 PM. (Looks like I will arrive in Toronto at around 1.30 AM. Which will give me 5,30 hours of sleep (+ all the sleep I will get on the flight.)

Fly first class on Air France to New York (nice, but not as nice as I had hoped, coolest part: getting a driver to drive me in a Jaguar to the plane.)

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Arrive in New York only to find out that the plane to Buffalo is delayed by 3+ hours…

(Good thing (!) I had decided to go for First Class ticket so that I could sleep well for the long Atlantic flight in a flat-bed.)

Arrive in Buffalo at around 2 AM and is met by my driver.

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Driver makes a few wrong turns but we finally drive in to Canada – without needing to show any eTA…

Arrive in Toronto at 3.30 AM.

Go to sleep at 4 AM.

Sleep 3 hours.

Wake up at 7 AM. Go down and meet the client – who is ecstatic that I have been able to solve the situation and arrive in time for my speech.

Do sound check, have breakfast, listen to the other internal speakers.

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And at 10.15 AM walk up infront of 5000 people and deliver my keynote speech. As promised.

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Final Lesson: Always, always, always make every effort that you can to make it to your speaking destination in time. Even if that means paying for a fist class ticket with your own money, flying in to the wrong country, or driving through the night to get to your destination. (or in the case of my little speaker war story as of yesterday: all of the above…

Bonus Lesson: Always google visa rules to make sure visa rules have not changed since you were in the county last…

Now at Toronto airport getting ready to fly back to Europe again.