I was conducting a business meeting about ten years ago when one of my clients asked if I would be interested in speaking on a cruise. Surprisingly, she had to convince me it was a good thing to do!
I wasn’t sold on the idea of being captive on a cruise ship and I had not developed any “cruise appropriate” material at that point. So her selling points included: the cruise lines pays for your cruise; you have complete access to the ship as a paying passengers; you also have access to crew areas which most passengers don’t and in this case, there were five ports of call including Jamaica, which had been on my Bucket List for more than ten years.
Okay, why not? I had the flexibility of leaving my business in the hands of long time business members, had done so on a few other occasions and it was sure to be an adventure.
I was to fill in for a speaker who was not able to make the cruise at the last minute, actually three days before the cruise date. The booking office in Florida, To Sea with Zee approved my application, converted the port fees already paid by the speaker I was replacing, paid for my round trip air fare and even picked me up at the airport Friday morning and took me to the cruise line docks. Most often speakers have to pay their own air fare.
All in all it was seamless! Even the cruise ship purser took pity on me for arriving at six am and allowed me to board at ten so I could get settled in. Normally no one is allowed on board before noon to give the crew ample time to prepare for the new passengers.
Once all the other speakers were on board, around three in the afternoon, we had an orientation meeting to tell us what was expected and what our speaking schedules would be. We were at sea four of the ten days and that is when we all would be speaking. Speakers are considered on board entertainment to give passengers options of activities.
I had created four topics based on communication skills which I thought would be of interests to the passengers who are typically between 50 and 75. My first presentation was the next day and there were about 20 people who attended. It was a light hearted audience participation based concept focused on how to improve public speaking communications styles.
However, I was not prepared for the next event. I walked into the movie theater and didn’t notice the audience as I walked down the isle towards the purser who was there to introduce me. After being set up with the earpiece microphone by their technical support crew I turned around and I believe I gasped! The theater was completely filled! My second presentation was entitled “Improving Communications With Your Partner!”
I was stunned! The largest audience I had been in front of at that point was about 500 and to have 1,500 people in front of me was more than a bit intimidating. But I drew on my on teachings to my speaking groups and decided to focus on just a few of those who were right in front of me.
I started out with a simple question “How many of you have been together more than five years?” About half the audience raised their hands. I kept going until I got to 35 years and only one couple in the fourth row still had their hands raised.
I walked over to them and asked “What is the secret to such a long marriage?” expecting some great words of wisdom.
He answered “I’m deaf!” to the great delight of the audience and set the tone for the rest of my presentation.
With the help of the audience, I had great success and many couples invited me to dine with them, share conversations privately and even a few couples who wanted additional help in guiding their communications skills.
It is a major responsibility to the cruise line to keep presentations informative, educational and fun. Passengers rarely intend to “work” on a cruise, they are there to relax and have an adventure.
I made it clear to each of my audiences if they saw me in any public area I would be open to their joining me for conversations and I was pleasantly surprised how often they took advantage of the offer.
Typically a speaker, author or trainer would approach a cruise line directly. Even though there are many resources such as the booking group who put me on my first cruise, it is not the most ideal method of engaging a cruise line when you want to return repeatedly. It is much better to contact the cruise lines directly and offer to speak while paying for your first cruise. If the reaction to your presentation is what they are looking for, they will usually book you for future speaking engagements. You would then only pay your port and transportation fees.
Keeping in mind the cruise lines want their passengers entertained, create at least four topics with five bullet points to present to the cruise activities directors. There are an average of 5,000 cruises each year, nine new cruise ships and 19 million people who go on cruises every year with nearly 25% leaving from Florida ports. There is no shortage of the number of cruises you could apply.
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