Presentations on a Plane

Ryan Orcutt

Written by

Ryan Orcutt

We’ve all sat through it a million times. Most of us outright ignore it.

We tune it out, turn on our iPod, and start perusing the aisles of the Sky Mall. Some people even spark up conversations while it’s happening.

Can you imagine a presentation less engaging than the airplane safety announcement?

The audience members (passengers) have completely disconnected from this presentation almost as soon as it starts, and some sleep right through it.

The presenters (flight attendants) performing the famous “seatbelt skit” put about as much effort into it as the person on the loudspeaker puts into reading the narrative.

The information contained in this presentation is more important than most of the presentations you’ll ever see. We are talking about people’s lives here. And yet, the script is usually boring, the visuals weak or nonexistent, and the delivery downright terrible. This is not good.

It’s also something I didn’t really consider until September 4, 2008.

That morning I boarded a Virgin America flight to San Diego, unprepared for the surprise waiting for me at seat 5E. It certainly wasn’t the flat panel display embedded into the seat (I specifically picked Virgin to try out their cool in-flight entertainment system). The real surprise was how they used that system to deliver a first class pre-flight presentation.

Prior to takeoff, the display caught my eye when it lit up with a red glow. The crew chief stood in the aisle, introduced himself, and politely asked if we would direct our attention to the displays in front of us. Everyone did.

Almost immediately, I knew this safety announcement was going to be different. The characters had style and grit. The transitions were smooth and innovative. The voice talent was sarcastic and conversational. It held my attention the entire time. And it wasn’t just me; the entire plane was silent. People were engaged.

Finally someone has given the airline safety announcement the respect it deserves.

And they’ve given us two important lessons:

Lesson one: Take cues from your audience. How many times are you going to give that same presentation before you do something about the people who tune out, shut down, or literally fall asleep while you talk?

Lesson two: If you find your passengers reaching for oxygen masks during your next presentation, wake them up with some style, some grit, and maybe even a little sarcasm.

Put another way? Dare to be different.