This afternoon, I fly to Barcelona for a speaking event. I am packed and ready to go well in advance. In fact, I have enough time that I can sit down and write this post. (The reason for my silence in the blogosphere over the past month or so is that my recent move into public speaking and presentation skills training full time has kept me extremely busy—in a good way—but it is time to get back to regular blogging.)
My impending trip got me thinking about a difference that I have noticed between the departure boards in European airports and departure boards at airports in Canada. (I am speaking, of course, about airports where I have traveled; there may be exceptions.)
In Europe, departures are arranged chronologically. The flights about to part are at the top of the screen whereas later flights are at the bottom. As flights take off, they are removed from the board and the other flights all shift up.
For example, to the right is a photo that I took at the international airport in Brussels when I spoke at a conference there in January.
When I traveled to Canada last summer, I flew from, or to, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. At each airport, I noticed that the departure boards were organized differently from those in Europe. For example, the next photo is one that I took at Montreal’s Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport. Do you notice the difference?
In Canada, the departure boards are organized alphabetically by destination. This board also provides the logo of the airline company instead of just the call letters as in the photo above.
Between the two, I prefer the Canadian one—and no, not because I am Canadian. It is because I can find my flights a bit faster when I am in Canada
If you were to randomly stop 100 people in an airport and ask them what time their flight was departing, I am sure that a substantial number of those people would have to check their tickets to be sure of the precise time. But if you asked those same 100 people where they were flying, I would be willing to bet that all 100 could tell you immediately.
At the Canadian airports, I find it a bit easier to locate my flights. Even when there are multiple flights to the same destination, as is the case with London/Heathrow in the photo above, I can quickly narrow the field and then zoom in on my flight. In photo above, I am pretty sure that the three flights to London/Heathrow at 22:25 were actually the same flight as American Airlines, British Airways and Iberia are all members of the One World Alliance. It is very helpful to have all three posted because different people purchase tickets for the same flight but through different companies. (What is a bit odd—and not so helpful—is that the 20:05 Air Canada flight to London/Healthrow is inserted in the middle of those other flights and out of order chronologically.)
In a completely unscientific study, I watched passengers in both airports to gauge how quickly they could find their flights. The amount of information was about the same in both locations. The screen in Brussels above is bigger than the one in Montreal, but there were more screens in Montreal. Now, I could be wrong, but it appeared to me that people spent less time searching in Montreal than in Brussels.
The lesson in all of this, when it comes to presenting, and particularly slide presentations, is that you want to make your ideas as easy to understand as possible. Have one main idea for each slide; don’t use too much text; eliminate distracting visuals and colours; bring bullet points in one at a time; give concrete examples; highlight the relevant data in a chart or graph; don’t flip through the slides too quickly.
Every time you present, you take your audience on a journey. Make sure they reach their destination!