Sunday, 29 March 2020

The principle of Smile

The Principle of Smile & The big 3 

During this brief post I wanted to share the tips I use to reduce the chances of my raft customers panicking during a swim.

I am getting on a bit now I will be 43 this year !. I first went kayaking when I was primary school in my home city of Manchester in the UK. As most school kids one of the first things we were taught is that if we go upside down when the kayak capsizes is " TRY NOT TO PANIC" 

Yeah right I know sit upside down in plastic lunchbox in cold dark water that is around 10 degrees C in an oxygen poor environment. wearing nothing more a thin long John wetsuit with no dry top and try not to Panic dream on !!

I eventually overcame the urge to panic and as the years past by.

 I found myself pleading with my guests not to panic when as a result of my poor guiding skills I would inevitably flip on regular occasions sending all of my customers for a swim. When working as a raft guide.

I am sure many raft guides will agree with me when the twinge of guilt you feel when you see a customer panicking in the water as a result of a mistake made by yourself. 

In 2007 I was lucky to work with a team of exceptional guides in Iceland on a demanding river that has a habit of making people (guides included) panic during a swim. Most of the guides quickly realised that panicking customers is bad for buisness for the following reasons. 

  •  Panicking creates added stress for all concerned parties customers & guides in a potentially stressful environment. 
  • A Panicking customer is not likely to return or become an advocate for your trips. 
  • In the dawn of trip advisor & social media bad reviews are not good for business

As a team of guides we asked " what can we do to stop our guests from panicking when they swim?"

step forward Mr Chris from Canada. 

In a moment of clarity Chris said
 "Instead of telling the customers what we do not want them to do Lets tell them what we want them to do"

Bingo I thought. 
As a team we quickly established that we wanted our customers to remain calm.  How can we communicate to our customers that we want them to remain calm when they are about to swim partway down a class 4+ rapid that can potentially give them 10-15 seconds of down time in glacial water. 

The general consensus was that the safety talk needed to have the same resounding message mentioned time & time again. 

"When you fall out of the raft the first thing we want you to do is to SMILE!!!!"

Chris had managed to convince us that it is physically impossible to panic if you are smiling. Until this day I don't know if it is true but smiling defiantly works for me when it's all going wrong around me. 
"The principle of smile was born !"

We noticed to see rapid results instantly when we encouraged our customers to smile. As we dropped into big rapids you could clearly see that the customers who had listed to the safety talk in detail we actively smiling & enjoying the OBE experince (Out of boat experience) 

The next development was the big 3. What big 3 points could we drill home to our guests to really make our clean ups after flips fun & easier.

  1. SMILE 
We then started to see that as a team of guides we were pre briefing the customers before the rapids where we knew that swimming was likely to occur. We found ourselves religiously reminding our customers to smile and do what we told them to do. 

I fondly remember loosing a guest out of my raft at the top of a big rapid and taking a long swim. I made a mental note that I would need to do some confidence re building  on her return to my boat. 

When I got to the bottom of the rapid and we re grouped the swimmer ran back to the raft with a big smile and proudly said
"Look I have my paddle & I am smiling that was awesome "

I gingerly smiled & thought wow

Take homes 
So what messages am I trying to get through to you !
  • Try telling your customers to smile when they take a swim watch the results yourself 

A smile creates a smile
  • Focus on telling your customers on the "what to do" instead of the "Not what to do"

  • Be proactive if you are at the top of a rapid that historically produces swimmers quickly remind  your customers at the top of the rapid what you want them to do and what to do if they take a swim. 

See you on the water