“Hollywood is a place that creates a viewer escape. What I try to do, as a director, I…,” said a visibly nervous director-slash-producer Michael Bay at Samsung’s press conference yesterday afternoon before conceding to a teleprompter mishap and excusing himself from the stage.
“The type is all off. Sorry. But, I’ll just wing this.”
“Tell us what you think,” said the other co-host on stage.
“Yeah. I’ll just wing it,” Bay said, not sound confident, taking a deep breath before trying to eke out a genuine answer for why he directs in the first place. “I try to take people on an emotional ride.” After that, the overwhelmed Bay could hardly focus on what he was there to do–talk about Samsung’s curved Ultra High Definition Television–and so he left the stage.
Not long after, Bay took to his blog to flesh out what had happened.
Wow! I just embarrassed myself at CES – I was about to speak for Samsung for this awesome Curved 105-inch UHD TV. I rarely lend my name to any products, but this one is just stellar. I got so excited to talk, that I skipped over the Exec VP’s intro line and then the teleprompter got lost. Then the prompter went up and down – then I walked off. I guess live shows aren’t my thing.
But I’m doing a special curved screen experience with Samsung and Transformers 4 footage that will be traveling around the world.
“Excited,” huh. I wasn’t aware inanimate objects, such as teleprompters, could err so odiously and “get lost”–very cool that even unexpected machines possess the AI to make human mistakes. And how about that Ultra HD TV? It’s curved!
Speaking on stage is one of the hardest things any executive has to do. How do you recover? What’s the secret for keeping your cool when things go off-script?
Programmer Jakub Chodounsky writes that spontaneity and adaptability is crucial in these situations. And you probably shouldn’t be working off of a memorized script anyway, says Dan Shipper, founder of Firefly. Instead, practice talking about the key points–you’ll come off as an authentic and relatable person, and if things go awry, you’ll be well-prepared and able to riff off what your consort or PowerPoint slide says. As startup CEO Josh Kerr notes on his blog, “There is no such thing as winging it. Even a 60 second pitch requires a ton of preparation.”
Developer Matt Gemmel has some more specific advice–first and foremost, If you must be rehearsed on stage, then rehearse. We’ll paraphrase the list here; click here to see his other tips.
- Rehearse fully so nerves don’t distract you.
- Make eye contact with people around the audience.
- Don’t do demos unless you are sure they’ll work.
- Don’t write code or debug during a presentation.
- Don’t just serve up slides loaded with bullet points; add some variety.
- Make yourself comfortable, physically; adopt a powerful pose and project your voice.
- Be dynamic and energetic.
- Remember that in almost all presentations, you’re telling a story, not conveying data.
- Don’t be careless–mind the details and anticipate questions.
- Be funny and human–you’re not here to act like a square.
- Take a break if the presentation is long–people need a recess to stay attentive.
- Watch yourself speak during rehearsal by recording video.
- Relax beforehand, and consider your physical needs.
- When you walk on stage, break the tension by talking loudly, saying good morning, or inviting the crowd to participate in an ice breaker.
And, for the sake of everyone’s second-hand embarrassment, stay calm. If you stumble on an “um” or other subconsciously injected speech disfluency, embrace it, writes Jason Freedman, co-founder of 42Floors. Focus by acting like you’re speaking to one or two people in the room. Find your ritualistic pose of confidence.
Oh, Michael. Poor Michael. It is clear now that live shows are indeed “not your thing.” Better to stick to those “emotional rides,” also known as… stuff exploding.