Sunday, November 21, 2004

Speaking and Traveling England and France 2004

Speaking is more than what you say on stage. You have lots of travel details and situations to deal with . . . especially in countries foreign to you. Here are some general tips based on my latest speaking trip to Europe. Also you'll see my rant against stupid hotel executives and my tongue in cheek look at why Europe shouldn't act so old :)

  • Bring more than one adapter for your electrical equipment. It's very likely you'll want to be charging several different batteries at once when you're in your room and you'll most likely need them if you want to use your computer during your presentation. If you are getting ones for adapting US equipment, get the three prong adapters. Don't try to save a buck or two by buying only "two prong" adapters and then be stuck when you getwhere you are going.
  • You probably don't need "transformers" for your business stuff. Had I left mine home this would have saved me several pounds of weight and that became pretty important as you'll see a little later. Transformers take the 240 volt electricity in Europe and reduce it to 110 volts like I use in the USA. My laptop, pda, camera, and cell phone chargers all accepted up to 240 volts without bringing extra transformers.

    Note: if you are using other electrical devices you will need a transformer. I was in Thailand speaking at an event and a lady in the audience had burned a big chunk of her hair off by plugging her curling iron into 240 volts.
  • Prepare for no, or poor, or expensive Internet connections, I payed as much as $35.00 per day for high speed Internet and in one case I had to be in the bar or the lobby to use my laptop.(That's where I writing this from right now). Although I hate AOL for many reasons I continue to support them because they had a dial in number in every place I went. I still wouldn't want to use AOL from my hotel room in England. Again, the outrageously overpriced phone is about one US Dollar per minute for a local call.
  • Sign up for fed ex account and have number with you all the time so the hotel can ship stuff for you. Trust me you don't want to be lugging extra stuff around Europe or anyplace else.
Speaking Stuff

  • In many parts of the world U.S. "Break out sessions" are called"syndicates".
  • A UK audience member slipped me a note after several US speakers kept mentioning a dollar amount and then changing the amount to pounds in an effort to be helpful. The note said, "We know the conversion rate. Don't waste time converting each number." A South African audience member concurred. She said South Africans watch the papers every day to see the value of their currency.

  • Watch your terminology: A US speaker related a story of how she was using the term "on the job" and she kept hearing muffled laughter from the audience. Finally she asked them what was so funny. They said, "on the job" meant prostitution.

  • I even had a minor slip up. I was talking about spilling a coke on my "pants" instead of "trousers". Pants are undergarments. It's best to run your material by a local person for input.

For a complete treatise of speaking Internationally pick up a copy of "Wake 'em Up Business Presentations" or the complete "Wake 'em UpVideo Professional Speaking System" which includes the "Wake 'emUp Book"

  • Handout printing was 3-5 times as expensive. Kinkos hasn't reached out yet all over the world. Check your paper size. I had to reformat my materials to use A-4 paper size instead of 8.5 x 11 inches.


  • Travel was relatively simple. I was never searched, my baggage was not hand searched (that I know of), not even a question of why I'm coming into the country. The entire trip was simply look at my passport, stamp it and move on through.

  • My shoes and money belt got caught at most airports security machines except when leaving Charles de Gaulle airport on BritishMidlands airlines.

  • Yes there are low cost airlines with cheap flights all overWestern Europe. BEWARE THE BAGGAGE CHARGES!. My short little hop from London Luton airport to Paris was only about $60.00 for the ticket. When I went to check in I got an additional surcharge of $160.00 for having more than 20 KG of check in luggage. To me this is highway robbery and a big RIPOFF

    This snowballed into much more wasted money. I Fed Ex'd one of my other bags home which cost a small fortune because I knew I had many more short hop flights already booked. When I checked in for all the rest of them, they never even noticed the weight of my checkins. ...Never even blinked an eye. Apparently the London Luton branch needs extra money.

    To top that off, you couldn't even get a glass of water without paying for it. All food and drink was for sale only and they even had "back of the plane" sales by trying to sell duty free stuff in the aisle of the plane.

    I had no trouble with British Midlands airline. They gave out really nice and fresh sandwiches and beverages on only a 45minute flight.

  • EasyJet also had very strict on carryon luggage restrictions to the point I thought was ridiculous. I fly Southwest in the USA all the time with the exact same packed planes that EasyJet uses and two carry on items is hardly ever a problem.

    Also be aware that in many of the carriers you take a bus out to the plane and have to walk up steep steps to board. This is a better reason to limit what you are carrying than any space problems on the plane. You won't have any protection either if it is pouring down rain.

The low cost regional airlines in Western Europe are:
Easy Jet, Ryan Air, Virgin Blue and British Midlands.

  • Cab rides are very expensive to get to the airport. Depending on where you are traveling from it could be 80-150 dollars which again is more than the cost of many of the short hop flights.
    In Paris, downtown to Charles de Gaulle airport was about 80 Euro (we got caught behind an accident)
    Paris cab drivers don't speak much english. Write down your hotel and where you want to go. Also circle it on a map. Make it clear so it can be seen at night.
  • I had need to go from Paris Orly airport to Charles de Gaulle airport so I took the Air France bus. This was a modern bus and there were no farm women in bubushkas carrying chickens either. .. . Cheap, reliable and inexpensive.... if you don't count the 4 extra Euro the hotel charged for selling me the exact same ticket the bus driver would have sold me. Total charge was 16 Euros for what would easily have been a 100 Euro cab ride.

  • Even though where I was airport announcements were done in both French and English it was difficlut to understand them because of accents. Get to the airport EXTRA early and double check everything to make sure you are in the right place. Keep asking until you find someone who speaks your language. At Paris Charles de Gaulle airport there are three major terminals and I guess they weren't separated by airlines. When the cab driver asked me which one I wanted, I had no idea. He had to call someone to findout.

  • It didn't appear that they have adopted the idea of only one person at a time at the front of the airplane toilet like they have in the USA. It was never mentioned on any regional flight.

Many hotel executives are idiots
This rant is aimed at all you pencil pushing hotel executives who apparently have never actually traveled anywhere. If you have more than one hotel in the same area, name the damn things differently. I got a last minute booking at the Holiday Inn London Heathrow, booked online from my hotel room with no printer available. "Holiday Inn London Heathrow" sounds pretty straighforward doesn't it. This must be the airport hotel . . . exactly where Iwant to be for my trip home.

Well, excuse me. None of the shuttle bus drivers who service these hotels knew the difference between the three Holiday Inns nearby which were all named "Holiday Inn London Heathrow". The onlyway to differentiate is if you have the actual address of the hotel. When I finally got to the right one. I complained to the guy at the front desk and he said customer complaints comes up in our meeting every week and no one does anything about it.

The same thing happened to me in Atlanta where there are three Marriotts within one mile of each other. I wish I had a video of the front desk employees at one of the Marriotts who looked like the three stooges tripping over themselves trying to tell which Marriott I was booked at and that time I had the printout from the website.

For a "Tongue in Cheek" view of and Internet speed guy and all my trials and tribulations on traveling to Europe visit:

  • Train travel is not as easy as it sounds. If you're booking European train travel before you leave the USA, you have to book way in advance and they mail you the tickets, which in many cases gets you on the train, but does not guarantee you a seat. You have to pay extra for a reservation. I guess many people just want to lay down on the floor of the cattle car. Why not book the ticket and the seat and when they are oversold, let you know that you can get on, but you may not get a seat?

    Yes, you can show up and buy tickets, but it's risky to show up with no reservation and no ticket. You might not get on at all and you might have to stand up the entire trip or sit on thefloor.


  • You must be a pretty confident driver to try to drive in a big European city. Many cars have standard transmissions which mean you have to shift gears. In England you better be darn good controlling a car and thinking about driving on their side of theroad. I've only done this twice. Once in St. Maarten and once inNew Zealand. As far as I know I didn't kill anyone. I did hear some thumps under the car on both occasions, but I was too busy thinking about staying on the proper side of the road to look in the mirror for any bodies.

  • In many countries the road signs have the native language and English too. The south of France was faily easy to get around.

  • Many streets are narrow and people will be coming at you from all directions. I was in many intersections where I told myself, "Just follow the car in front of me and hope for the best".
    They have super mini cars, and there are tons of motorbikes which make their own lane in between the left and right lane. They make it a point of coming within inches of you as the dart in and out of traffic. You better have a good stomach for it if you plan on trying to drive.

  • Double parking was commonplace and I saw park jobs that would have gotten you immediately arrested in the USA. No one seemed to care.

  • Renting a car was no problem and I guess getting my International drivers license renewed at AAA was a waste of time. They were happy to look at my regular US license. The problem with renting a car in France was zero, but good luck reading the contract which was entirely in French. You better have some good insurance because I may have initialed a clause that says I will paint the Eiffel Tower the rest of my life if I even scratch the car.


  • I'm pretty sure I invented this technique which is especially good for speakers, but is a handy thing to do when you travel anywhere where you can't speak the language. Carry pictures of the things you need or carry a digital camera where you have a picture stored of what you need.
    How many of you can say LCD Projector in Chinese or Thai or French or in any other language? Yes, the business community ofthese countries speak English, but the set up crew at the hotel probably can't. Pictures of what I need have saved me enormous hassles when speaking in non English speaking countries.

    I wish I had a picture of some ice cubes when the French hotel I was staying in kept sending my ice cream in stead of ice cubes.

  • Use phone cards to call back to your home country, but try to get ones where you can read the instructions in your language. Once you use them a little bit, you will be able to guess which numbers to dial to get the phone card to work.

    AAA included a phone card when I bought some Euros before leaving the USA. Here's a tip: If they aren't bragging about the price per minute, it is too much and a ripoff. I had to search all over their website for 20 minutes to find the price which was way out of line.
  • Internet cafes were not as nearly plentiful in Western Europe as they were in Bangkok when I was there. Keep your power adapters with you if you visit one, because they most likely won't havewhat you need.

  • My PDA / Cell phone / wireless email worked in the big cities but not outside the cities. I also could receive email, but not send it. I was using T-Mobile


  • ATM machines weren't as easy to find as they are in the USA. Some wouldn't work at all and some wouldn't accept US cards.

  • England doesn't take Euros.

  • Travelers checks are still usable, but an easier to manage alternative is a plastic card. Check with your bank. They sold me an Amex card where I could put up to $2750.00 US on it and use it just like travelers checks to get cash.


  • Everything appeared to me to be smaller including rooms, bathtubs and showers. I had to duck to get in shower.

  • A hop on and hop off bus tour is a handy way to see the major sites quickly.

  • There is lots of smoking going on. If you hate cigarette smoke, some situations will not be enjoyable.

  • You can buy tickets to things at your hotel, but keep in mind they are jacking up the price by making it convenient for you. In many cases there is no increase at all in convenience, just higher prices

  • My new digital camera has been great. It's a really small and thin shirt pocket design with 4 Megapixel resolution. I got it and all the accessories for about $400.00 US Brand name is Kyocera. I'll post some pics when I get home after the 23rd.

All in all this was another great experience I was allowed to have and paid for by my ability to speak at the professional level.

I can teach you how to do that to and the entire deal includes three personal consultations with me so that I can personalize the course and answer all your questions about making money either part time or full time as a professional speaker.
Catch ya


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