This post is part of a series in which LinkedIn Influencers and members share their business travel advice and stories from life on the road. Read all the posts here.
No matter what has happened on the journey, I need to arrive glamorous, fresh, funny and ready to give ‘all’ to an audience. No matter what it has taken to get there I am only there to give my best performance – and it can never be about me or the experience I have had to arrive on time.
Business travel sounds so exciting and fantastic – something to be sought after and a mark of success when one’s employer values you enough to send you to faraway places. It does not take long to realize the real toll that it takes not just on your family and social life, but also you personally.
As such, when I accept to travel, I know there will be an opportunity cost so I only accept speaking engagements that I believe can really impact the audience. Like this one…
I find myself in Wellington one and a half hour before I am supposed to go on stage for an audience of 800 (big in New Zealand) in Auckland – some 600 km away! It is a breakfast presentation starting at 8 a.m. and it is already 6:30 a.m. I had flown out of Sydney on the last flight to Auckland, which usually gets me in at about 11 p.m. at night. I like this flight because I can do a full day’s work in Sydney, have dinner at the airport, arrive in New Zealand, sleep and then be on my way for a full day of business with no real effect or time delay.
That is great in theory, but on this particular occasion, about half an hour before we were supposed to land, the pilot informed us that there was an electrical storm so they were diverting the plane to Wellington. Instantly I was in a panic. When we landed in Wellington, we were advised Auckland airport would remain closed for the night and that we would be transferred to the “first available” domestic flight in the morning. I was in such a state that I could not consider going to the airport hotel… like many others I tried to sleep on the plastic airport chairs — the business lounge was of course closed.
I called the conference organizer to let them know, to see if they could delay my presentation for the breakfast event. They said that unless I was there by 8 a.m., there was no point as people had to get off to work by 9. So I called one of the RedBalloon helicopter suppliers in Wellington — I thought this was a brilliant idea. Apart from getting them out of bed, the pilot noted that whilst I might be happy to pay the $50,000 fare to get there, if the airport was closed for the airlines, it was for them too. (I felt like a bit of a dill but panic will do that to you).
There was nothing I could do but wait for the morning. I was the first one at the counter when it opened – big smile, wooing the check-in person. Boarding pass in hand I rushed to the gate. And then waited. And waited. Finally everyone was boarded but the plane could not depart until Auckland airport had opened again.
This gave me a chance to chat to the organizers, who had someone waiting at the airport for me. But I knew it was a good 40-minute drive from the airport to the venue and I would land right in time for peak-hour traffic.
I don’t know how I did it. I got changed in the plane toilet (much to the surprise of other travelers), brushed my hair, put on some lipstick — and the red jacket.
I walked on stage, adrenalin pumping. No one ever knew what it had taken to get there. I never mentioned it to the audience and it was an ‘out of the box’ presentation. I know when I have delivered something very special — and in my heart I knew that I did a great job.
No matter what happens to us, no matter our own circumstances, when we only think of others, it is amazing the difference we can make. For the whole day I was walking on cloud nine.
It was not about me but always about them. Business travel is just something to get me to the right place, on the right time — so I can deliver the right message.
I still have never let an audience down — no matter what it takes.
Photo: Author’s Own This first appeared as part of my LinkedIn Collection