On a recent business trip I had the opportunity to experience 19 hours of flight delays.
Now, I will not claim to be a ‘relaxed’ or ‘easygoing’ traveler at the best of times (control issues) but this time I was particularly anxious to return to NYC as I had back-to-back speaking engagements.
Suffice to say, I was tense when I got to the airport and discovered we were delayed. I was extremely tense when the second round of delays was announced. I was grateful when we boarded the plane, devastated when we were told to deplane. Elated when we re-boarded an hour later and apoplectic when we were told to get off.
After arriving at the hotel, pulling back the covers and finding the last occupant’s Chapstick,I was glued to the ceiling for the night.
I’m fairly certain I underwent modified system failure when, on arriving at the airport the next morning, I learned we were…wait for it…delayed.
It was at this point that the perky airline representative said flippantly, “I bet if somebody comes out here and starts giving away free snacks because this flight is canceled you are going to freak out.”
Um…. wrong tone.
And while I have no doubt she was trying to bring a bit of levity to a tense moment, it w.a.s n.o.t. t.h.e. t.i.m.e.
What happened next? I suggested to her (in a somewhat different tone) that it was important to consider the possible mental state of the people to whom she speaking.
How does this apply to you? Day-to-day, it’s something to consider when you enter a meeting halfway through; when you’re the pre-lunch presenter in a day of pitch meetings; when you’re the last speaker at a daylong conference.
Because while you may (and should!) be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed—filled with enthusiasm for your subject—it’s possible your listeners are suffering from inter-office tension, poor ventilation, low blood sugar, lousy seating, and general malaise.
So while I always want you to bring your best self to the circumstances in which you are speaking, I want you to be equally aware of the possible mental/emotional/physical state of your audience.
Because you never want to flip them off.
Frances Cole Jones