I have been coping with some pressing personal problems recently, which I am now thankful to report, are pretty much resolved. What this experience has taught me is how important it is to be able to call on the genuine expertise and in-depth knowledge of those helping you. It doesn’t matter what their chosen field is – it’s their knowledge and skill that makes all the difference. We have often learned to our cost that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. However, the temptation when you are in business, maybe with cash flow problems, or with budget restrictions, is to go for the cheapest option. Invariably you get what you pay for.

Back in my aviation training days, much time, effort and money was (and hopefully still is!) spent on teaching airline personnel – both pilots and cabin crew – how to manage emergency situations onboard an aircraft.

My then role as an aviation safety instructor was to teach management of fire on board, decompression, first aid, terrorist scenarios and emergency evacuation drills, both on land and water. Most folk think that ditching (an emergency landing on water) is non-survivable – but knowing what to do to keep yourself from hypothermia, being capable of launching life-rafts, locating distress flares and emergency rations has, in the past, given airline crew a much higher percentage of survival than the average passenger. This is why should I have the misfortune to unexpectedly ditch mid-Mediterranean on my next trip to Minorca (Boris permitting!) – I would not turn to my fellow passenger and expect him to help. Even if he did have a platinum frequent flyer card!

No – the folk I would look out for if I were bobbing helplessly in the water are the crew. How would I know they were crew? They wear orange life jackets – the passengers wear yellow. One of the things that still resonates with me is that airline crew know their survival drill inside out and back to front, whereas the average passenger  – however frequent a flyer – will only have a cursory knowledge at best. 

Just by virtue of doing something often (i.e. giving a fleeting glance at the safety card in your seat pocket, or magnanimously removing a single earbud during the safety briefing) doesn’t make you an expert. And it is dangerously disingenuous to assume so. Even more dangerous is to offer your limited advice to someone in need of expert help.

Therefore if you want to get the best value from your communication/presentation skills training or coaching, don’t plump for the recently redundant ‘consultant’ who has re-invented themselves by virtue of an iPad and an Instagram account. 

Instead, choose your consultant carefully – request testimonies from past clients, ask about repeat clients, note how long they have been in business – in my profession, there are many fly-by-nights!  Don’t be deceived by highfalutin promises either, look for someone who is capable of delivering what they promise.

In other words – look for the orange life jackets