One of the most common pieces of advice for a presenter is make sure you are well prepared and have practiced your presentation. Even if you’re using a teleprompter, know your material well enough to wing it if things go wrong.
Unfortunately, director Michael Bay (of “Tranformers” and “Pearl Harbor,” among others) has apparently not learned that lesson.
At a Samsung event Monday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Samsung Executive Vice President Joe Stinziano introduced Bay to talk about a new, huge, curved television.
After delivering his first couple of lines responding to a scripted question from Stinziano, he had a problem with the prompter.
He was flustered, but he said out loud he would wing it. After another few words, he was clearly flummoxed. Stinziano tried to help him by asking how the curved TV might influence how viewers experience his movie.
At this point, he said, “Excuse me,” and then, “I’m sorry,” twice before walking off the stage.
He blogged about the incident afterward, writing:
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.
Practice makes perfect—or prepared, at least
There was an easy way to prevent this disaster. If Bay had practiced (not only at the event site prior to the actual program but even before that), this might never have happened.
Presenters should know their material well enough that the prompter serves only as a backup.
Anyone doing presentations must anticipate that something will go wrong at some point. The late Apple CEO Steven Jobs was known for his intensive preparation and rehearsals. He knew his material so well that when things went wrong, he was ready to handle the situation.
At one of his famous keynote addresses, a demonstration using Wi-Fi was not working. Instead of getting flustered, he simply asked his audience to turn off their Wi-Fi devices. The demo then proceeded as it was supposed to.
It was a disaster for actress Kim Delaney at an event honoring then-retiring Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Though some speculate alcohol was involved, it looks like a lack of preparation and not knowing her script contributed to the embarrassing incident.
Former New York prosecutor and Senate candidate Jeanine Pirro (now a Fox News personality) learned the same lesson the hard way. In August 2005, Wikipedia notes, “In a widely publicized moment when she was declaring her candidacy, Pirro misplaced a page of her speech and went silent for 32 seconds, something that is widely considered to have damaged her campaign before it even started.”
Had she known her speech well enough, that would not have happened.
Presenters also must learn how to work through mistakes.
Former president of the National Speakers Association Mike McKinley always has said: “Do not worry about minor mistakes. The audience does not know your script.”
If you have lots of good material, it will make very little difference if you forget to mention something you had planned to say. It will however make a big difference if you get so rattled because you left something out that, like Bay, you can’t continue or you set off a domino effect of additional mistakes and omissions.
Mistakes—fix them or feature them
Even if Bay had not properly prepared, he could have made a joke about the prompter and, as he said he would do, wing it. Stinziano tried to make it easy on him. He asked easy questions, but Bay was so flustered by the teleprompter issue that he was unable to continue.
He simply should have listened to the question and, knowing he was promoting a new curved television, answer the question about how that would enhance his films. He didn’t need a prompter to do that.
He could have featured the mistake by later saying something like, “I forget what was on the prompter. Hey, maybe that’s a good thing. Let me answer this way…”
Mistakes may even enhance your credibility when you acknowledge them and/or feature them.
It is OK to admit problems to an audience. It is likely they will be very sympathetic. Most people can see themselves in the same kind of predicament and will side with you.
The bottom line: Know your material. Still, be prepared for bad things to happen, and have at least some idea how to get around them.