More and more folks have been asking me my thoughts about Michael Bay’s freakout at CES.  (If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the video below):

First things first, I have mad empathy for him.  It’s not easy to have things go wrong on such a big stage.  Apparently the most common fear is a fear of public speaking.  Now onto helping you avoid on stage disasters.

So, what really happened? His teleprompter wasn’t working, he got overwhelmed because he didn’t have his content, and he left the stage. No doubt his schedule is intense, the requirements of him high stacks, and his thinking wanted on a regular basis. I suspect he didn’t have the time that others might have for rehearsal. We all know that he must be a good speaker if he’s been able to find all that funding for his over-the-top, amazing, visual films.

How could this have been avoided? I can’t be specific, not having worked with Michael directly before, but I have general ideas for general folks.

  1. Rehearse.  Rehearse as much as you can, with as much lead time as you can muster.  If you’re going to memorize your content, rehearse a few times after that point so you can go back to sounding more natural rather than robotic.
  2. Have a back up plan.  If you’re going to use a teleprompter, cool.  But don’t assume it’s going to work.  Have back up notes on you (be it written on a piece of paper or note cards.
  3. If all goes bad, stay calm.  Sometimes the right thing to do when all h*ll breaks loose is to just stay still, take a deep breath and be in moment.  He was being fed questions by the moderator that could have led him through if he was able to listen (hey, remembering to be calm isn’t something we can all remember to do at all times).  If you’re funny, crack a joke.  If you stay calm, you can use your technical difficulties as an opportunity to make a deeper connection with your audience.
  4. Test equipment ahead of time.  Don’t just trust the equipment to do what it should do.  Don’t just trust that everyone has the latest content.  Have your materials double checked on the actual equipment you’re going to present on with enough of a time buffer to either fix things or improvise.

Hopefully these tips will help you avoid disaster.  And if you can’t, well, you can cut yourself some slack by remembering you’re human and that we don’t all have to be perfect all of the time.