Great presenters are everywhere

Written by

Mark Heaps

As I write this, I am sitting thousands of feet in the air on a Southwest Airlines flight. It was an early flight, very early. I watched the sunrise form my gate window. When I boarded the flight, I was tired. And then I met Boris.

Southwest flight attendant Boris speaking into a phone while on a flight

Boris had the “joy” of greeting us—a sea of coffee-clutching zombies—as we boarded the plane and making the announcements throughout the flight. You know what the normal experience is like. But this was anything but normal.

Boris combined the necessary details required by FAA regulations with well-timed jokes and pop culture references.

“…don’t worry ladies and gentleman today’s flight is just going to be about you and me in a small metal cylinder hurtling 500mph through the sky well over ten thousand feet in the air!”

“…we are not expecting any issues on the flight today, if we did I wouldn’t have come to work. So let’s sit back and relax, and enjoy the fact that we’re only half full and none of you need to sit in the middle of a row. Unless you are awkwardly trying to meet people in the hope of finding a future partner.”

At first there were a few giggles. Then it turned into full-blown laughter. By the time he used his phone to play “Leaving on a Jetplane” over the intercom, people were actually swaying their hands back and forth and signing along.

The more people laughed the more relaxed—and attentive—we all became.

When a man asked another flight attendant if his speech was a script, she replied, “No, we never know what he’s going to say. It’s different every flight which is why we laugh, too. He just improvises, but he’s always brilliantly funny.”

Boris was a great presenter who recognized something in his role—he had a literally captive audience. More importantly he realized that by moving this audience to feel something different during a normally mundane experience he could gain their trust and complete attention. And that he did.

The seamlessness of what Boris was accomplishing was not lost on me as a Duartian. He was always sneaking in relevant pieces of information, always educating, while being entertaining and engaging.

He was funny, but also sincere. It didn’t feel like a script. It felt conversational and personal, like he was talking to us, not at us.

So what is the point of me sharing this story? A great presenter is infinitely more effective at their job. You can gain trust and respect, and even help your audience learn and retain information. Clearly, Boris has a unique talent, but his presenting skills can be learned.

It’s not just managers, executives, and directors that need effective presentation skills. Everyone, at any level, in any job, can improve and develop in their role by becoming a better presenter. Your customers are your audience, your community is your audience, and you should always treat your audience as king.

I don’t often fly Southwest Airlines. But now I know this is Boris’ route, I’m more inclined to switch from my regular provider to Southwest, all because of the experience given to me by one great presenter.