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October 05, 2008

Getting Your Audience to Listen - Turning the Mundane Into Extraordinary

By Li Evans

Airlinestewardess "Attention ladies and gentleman, if you would reach forward into the pocket in front of you and pull out the safety instructions card, we will now go over the safety features of this aircraft....."

How many times have you heard that?  How many times do you tune it out?  How many times have you put your headphones on and turn up your iPod (if you're still sitting at the jetway), concentrate more on chapter 4 of the book you brought on board to read, put the ear plugs in and drift off to sleep as soon as that steward picks up that telephone intercom and starts reciting that safety speech on any major airline that you travel today?

"In the event of a water landing, your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device...."

I never smiled during those speeches, I'm one for my book, or drifting off to sleep.  They are so damn monotonous.  After flying more than 40k miles this year, I could likely recite that speech by heart now.  I never thought I'd truly listen to one, ever again.

Then on Monday, that changed.  A lot of things changed for me that day, my life irrevocably altered because my dad passed away.  Let me tell you, Disney's Magic Kingdom no longer was the happiest place on earth for me after the phone call I received.  I desperately wished I had Captain Picard's teleporter to get back to Pennsylvania to be with my mother and sister that instant. 

Southwestairlinesplanecabin After having a lot of help from a shuttle company that services Disney & Orlando, and from Southwest Airlines, I was bumped up to flight 1600 out of Orlando and back to Philly.  I was thankful the plane wasn't packed, and I had a row to myself and my box of Kleenex's the kind folks at the Double Tree at Universal had given to me. 

"Good afternoon ladies and gentleman..... we'll be on our way to Pittsburgh....."  the steward began.

After a wry chuckle and some jokes, and clarifying we were really on our way to Philly, I got the sense this steward, was a bit different from any others I'd encountered.  Little did I know, on a day where I thought it was impossible to laugh, or even crack a smile, this steward had a gift.

He started the safety speech, but it wasn't like any you'd heard before, unless you've encountered Brandon before on a Southwest flight.  From comparing the style of the oxygen masks to Louis Vuitton, to joking about first class (Southwest has none) and the 4 course meals we'd be receiving, this guy could really make people laugh.  Including someone who was very obviously grieving.

But it wasn't the fact that he made me chuckle or even that he made me smile with his safety speech.  What struck me more, was that - I was actually LISTENING to it - I was waiting to hear what other funny comparison this man could come up with.  Not only that - the entire plane was listening to him.  They were laughing along with me, which meant that 97% of that plane was listening (discounting the children under say 10).

Everyone that could comprehend the steward, applauded along with me after I put up my hands and clapped for this guy.  The person two rows in front of me whistled, and others cheered.  How many plane stewards get that kind of reception on a daily basis for something that is so innane and monontous? 

Airplanesafetyoxygenmask There are a few things I thank my dad for.  One of those things is two be able to recognize situations like this and turn them into something I can use to help me or help someone else.  My dad was the total opposite of me "outwardly".  You all know me as gregarious, outspoken, and an extrovert - my dad was a total introvert, but he taught me a lot and I think in some small way, this was a bit of a parting gift from him to me, to allow me to share this experience with you, the audience.  At the end of my flight, walking off the plane, I took Brandon to the side, and said, "Thank You", and that he had a very special gift he should be proud of.

Stop and think, are you boring your audience?  Do your customers always expect the same thing over and over again?  Do people just glance over your emails - figuring it's just the same information they've gotten 3 times before?  Are you just regurgitating what the rest of your industry has said over and over again?

Well then, be like Brandon!  Turn the mundane into extraordinary!  Think outside the normal day to day and bring some variety, some fun, some intrigue into what you are saying, relating or communicating to your audience, customers or even colleagues.


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Hi Li,

First, I'm really sorry to hear about your dad. Our parents should live forever.. and stay young too..

Secondly, you've hit upon a very important point in this article. Readers need to feel your personality, and they like being entertained. Laughter is good, even on a bad day.

Brandon accomplished a lot for you that day in "real time." I'm envisioning his delivering that "same-old same-old" speech that he's given hundreds or thousands of times before. Maybe he was bored himself and needed a little entertainment?

Online, we have to keep the attention of our readers with just our written words. We can do this, right? Everybody's still reading - Write? Right?..

BTW - Thanks for the great seminars in Philly!

thanks a lot,very good

Nice Post. Thanks for sharing this information with us.

Sorry to hear about your loss...but thanks for the great info. Its so true, people get bored with the same old, same old.

Hi Li,
Greg J. forwarded your e-mail to us, and we all were so sorry to hear about your father. Almost 20 years ago, I made a flight (on another airline) for the same reason as you did, and I know that it wa absolutely the longest flight in aviation history. I am so glad that Brandon helped divert your attention to a happier subject. Actually, our Employees are pretty good about making situations like yours a little more palatable. We will see if we can positively identify Brandon, and share your thoughts with him, along with some thanks of our own.

Very good points. Online or offline, it's vital to get your personality to come across to your audience. Engagement is the name of the game. We just put up our own post about doing this in webinars: http://hiringtheinternet.com/2008/10/02/4-ways-to-spin-a-better-webinar/

A great article in testing circumstances, thanks for sharing Li.

This site gives us the good information and knowledge.
The content is very good.
Social Bookmarking

A good post indeed.

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