Tag: Speaker war story

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 06.28.46

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.

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 06.29.08

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.)

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 06.28.55

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 06.29.16

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.

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 06.29.34

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.

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 06.29.46

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

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 03.37.08

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.

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 02.48.17

“You just work one hour and then you are done?! Boy you are lucky!”

People who hear I make a living being a professional speaker are often amazed by how we speakers can have as a job to speak for 60 minutes.

And it is true, the job of being a professional speaker is in many way a blessed profession.

And yes, we do have a lot of time off.

But that “one hour of speaking” is often surrounded by a lot of other things.

Let me give you a run-down of the last 40 hours.

Monday

03:45  AM – Wake up and row from my island to the main land

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 02.48.54

04.00 AM – Jump into taxi to airport.

04:45 AM – Taxi gets a flat tire and I have to get another taxi

05:00 AM – Check in at airport in Stockholm

06:15 AM – Plane leaves Stockholm for Munich.

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 02.49.06

08:00 AM – Being picked up my event company at Munich Airport

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 02.49.13

 

09:00 AM – Arrive at the BMW test driving site (where I am speaking on Tuesday)

09:00 – 10:00 AM – Get to know client and venue

11 – 12 AM – Do a test run of my full speech for the client and the crew

12 AM – Jump into a borrowed car to drive back to airport in Munich.

1 PM – Check in for flight to Warsaw.

1 PM – 2 PM – have lunch

2.40 PM – Board flight from Munich to Warsaw.

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 02.53.43

5 PM Land in Warsaw (plane a bit delayed)

5.30 PM – Arrive by hotel car at Intercontinental in Warsaw.

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 02.48.17

5:30 – 6 PM – Shower and check in to hotel room

6 PM – Go down to event space and install computer and talk to client.

6.30 – Event starts (I listen to the other speakers)

7 PM – 8 PM – SPEAK FOR ONE HOUR FOR DLA PIPER GLOBAL HR SUMMIT.

8 – 9 PM – Join client for dinner

9.30 – Go to sleep.

TUESDAY

4 AM – wake up and take quick shower

4:15 AM – Taxi picks me up for airport

5 AM – Arrive in Warsaw airport and check in

5:30 AM – have breakfast at airport

6 AM – Board plane from Warsaw back to Munich.

8 AM – Land in Munich

8:30 – 9 AM – Drive to BMW text drive site

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 02.53.24

9 – 10 AM Check in with client

10 – 12 AM Event starts (I listen to BMW internal speakers)

12 AM – 1 PM have lunch and do last minute sound check

1 PM – 2 PM SPEAK FOR 50 MINUTES AT THE BMW CLIENT CONVENTION

2 PM – 3 PM – Listen to the other speakers and give some feedback to client.

3 PM – drive back to hotel in Munich

4 PM – check in, take shower.

Rest of evening is free time.

So in 36 hours I spoke for clients for a total of 2 hours. But it’s not like I was not keeping busy…

Now I should be checking emails, etc, but instead I decided to write this blog.

I hope it shows an “behind the scenes summary” of what the life of a global professional speaker is really like: A bit of speaking, a bit more working with and learning from clients – but most of all: a lot of traveling.

Sweden-Germany-Poland-Germany in less than 30 hours… (And if you think this schedule sounds a bit too tights, be informed that the client in Poland was aware of the tight connection (and would be flexible with my starting time for my speech had I been more delayed), and for the speech in Germany I had a “back up flight” had my first flight been cancelled, so all good.)

Bangkok, Thailand.

IMG_0052

I am actually in the middle of a 2-month summer vacation with no speeches, but today, I am making an exception as I am in Bangkok to give a speech.

I flew in from Sweden to this City of Angels one day before my speech to enjoy some great Thai food, some relaxing Thai massage and some refreshing mangoes and young coconuts by the river.

The reason I am taking a break from my vacation is that the client I am speaking for is such an interesting company. Today, I am speaking for the Asian managers of Booking.com.

Booking.com is the worlds largest hotel room booker.

Some awesome statistics about the company:

+700 000 = Number of hotel rooms you can book on the site
+47 000 000 = Number of customer reviews on hotels
+850 000 = Number of hotel nights booked every day (!) through the site

As a person who spends a lot of nights per year in hotels around the world, it is an honor and a privilege to get to speak for this innovative and dynamic company.

So in honor of my client, today’s blog post will be on the theme of hotels.

Over the last 20 years, I have stayed in some awesome hotels. Like The Commune (a hotel over looking the Great Wall of China and consisting of a bunch of over-sized designer villas), or the famous “Ice Hotel” in the north of Sweden that is literally built out of ice and melts every spring.

But my most amazing hotel experience did not happen in a hotel.

I once arrived late at night in Stockholm only to find out that, due to a misunderstanding, there was no hotel room booked for me.

Normally, this would not be a big problem. I would just go online and book myself a room, but Stockholm is one of those cities where there can be zero hotel rooms available when there is a big conference in town.

This was one of those times. It turned out there were 2 (!) rooms available within 1 hour of travel from Stockholm. One was a hotel suite at Grand Hotel for 650 Euro per night. The other room was at “Danderyd Hospital”.

It turns out that the hospital was renting out the rooms in the maternity ward (!) if they had few expecting mothers.

So for one night, I stayed in a room that had a baby crib in it and in the morning, I had the most amazing hotel breakfast I have ever had: eating cheese sandwiches together with a bunch of women who were holding their new-born babies!

Being a speaker, you surely get to experience some really cool things.

Finally, let me end by giving you some insider-tips regarding hotels from a global speaker’s point of view.

1) Do not let the client be too nice to you.

Many times, the client will choose to put you up in the “nicest/best” hotel in town. That is a very nice gesture (from their side) and a very nice perk (from the speaker’s point of view).

But resist it.

I recently did a speech in Chennai where I was booked in a very nice hotel by the client, but it took more than 45 minutes to get there from the airport. And then in the morning, it took 1 hour to get from the hotel to the venue which, ironically, was just next to the airport.

Putting me up in the closest hotel to the venue would have given me almost 2 hours more of relaxing time in the hotel, instead of driving around in crazy Indian traffic.

For a speaker, “proximity” is the biggest luxury of all when it comes to hotels.

2) Let the client book the hotel, but book the flights yourself.

I usually book my flights myself to be able to have a flexible way of getting to and from speeches, but I normally let the client book my hotel.

Why?

a) They usually get a better deal since they have booked many rooms for their conference

b) There is less costs to invoice the client, and less things for you to keep in your head

c) They normally know more about the city than you do so they know which hotels are good

3) Take advantage of the hotel-perks.

In some countries (or I should say some airports), getting a taxi can be a nightmare. I have had some awful waiting-in-line-for-taxis-for-over-one-hour-experiences in, for example, Shanghai and Brussels.

If the client is ok with it, ask them to book a hotel car pick-up so that there is someone waiting for you with a sign carrying your name on it as you exit the airport, and you will be on your way to the hotel a few minutes after landing.

If possible, try to get the mobile phone number of the driver as airport pick-up is a great service that can turn into a very annoying service if the guy there to pick you up is not there when you come out.

4) Try to get the client to book you in the same hotel where the conference will be held.

Many conferences take place in hotel ballrooms, or in conference centers that has a hotel in or next to it.

But many times, the delegates for the conference will stay in many different hotels around town since not all delegates might fit in the hotel where the conference is happening.

As a speaker, you should kindly suggest that you get a room in the hotel where the conference takes place, so that you can:

a) easily check out the speaking venue when you arrive
b) can go up to your room if you need
c) do not have to worry about getting from your room to the venue
etc.

It might sound basic that the speaker should stay in the hotel where the conference is, but you would be surprised how often the conference organisers miss this.

But it is easy to forgive them for not thinking of this, since for the person organising the conference, this is just a VERY minor detail amongst millions of other things they have to think about.

But for you, it makes a huge difference.

Make sure you ask for this early so that they do not need to re-book someone else to a different hotel.