Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 7, 201410:28 PM

If You're Going To Speak In Public, Please Don't Do This...

Everyone is talking about the Michael Bay meltdown that happened at CES.

I hate the whole "kicking someone when they are down mentality," but this is worth watching if you ever have to present or speak in public...

Ugh... it's tough to watch, isn't it?

Because I am often asked to speak in public and I have a personal passion for the art of public speaking, my email, social feeds and phone have (literally) been a-buzz all day about this incident. I can't imagine how Bay currently feels (if you're interested, he has posted a response on his personal blog and did a brief interview with TMZ). The human side of this is brutal. I would hate for this to happen to anyone. I'm sure he's not feeling all that great about the situation. And, to make it even worse, I feel like even commenting on this incident simply creates more attention to it (which, I am sure, Bay does not really want). That being said...

This incident has nothing to do with public speaking, a fear of public speaking or anything like that!

It's true. Michael Bay was not doing any form of public speaking. He was going to read on stage, live in front of an audience (something that he has never read or rehearsed before). That's not speaking. That's reading. He was going to attempt Public Reading not Public Speaking (these are not the same thing). I write a lot about this particular issue/fear right here: Overcoming Stage Fright. Bay is not a professional speaker. Bay never claimed to be a professional speaker. Still, Samsung paid him and he agreed to this event. The teleprompter either broke or he said the wrong line and this threw off the script and flow. The truth is that none of that matters because Bay broke the cardinal rule of presenting in public long before the wheels of his plane touched the ground in Las Vegas: he did not prepare. Not even for a second. You can tell by watching the video. Regardless of the teleprompter, it's clear that Bay had two speaking points: what is his work day in and day out, and what does he think of the new curved glass TV? He got so flustered that he couldn't even respond to those two questions, so he bolted from the stage. Five minutes of preparation would have changed all of that. Yes, five minutes.

It goes like this...

Here's how the five minute preparation should have gone in terms of giving Bay some direction: "We're going to use a teleprompter and it has our whole script on it. Let's meet 30 minutes before we go live and run through it a couple of times to get a feel for the stage and the interaction between everyone on stage. Technology might fail us, so if it does, let's just be sure that you're comfortable speaking to two key points: what your job is every day and how you work, and what you think about the new Samsung TV. If things really start going bad, be comfortable acknowledging it by letting the audience know that you're a director, that you're nervous but you're also really excited about this new TV and everything it can do." Obviously, nobody wants to be at the point where we're apologizing and letting the audience know that we're nervous, but that is the parachute for moments like this. In that quick five minute conversation, Bay would have had a mental framework, and would have been able to take ownership of the content instead of being paralyzed because he didn't know or prepare any of the content (regardless of the teleprompter).

...And here we are.

Bay is right. In his TMZ interview he said that he had a "human moment." We all have them. Good, bad and ugly. So, what turned out to be a bad day for Bay and an embarrassing moment deserves some empathy, but it's not something that could happen to any of us. It's something that happens when you don't know the content and don't do any preparation. So yes, it's a human moment, but it is a completely preventable one. I write this because it's moments like this that people will point to as a reason/excuse for them to not present ("I don't want to pull a Michael Bay up there, so I better not speak!"). You don't have to be a master presenter. You don't have to be a pro. You do have to have a semblance of knowledge as to what you're going to speak about, and you do have to prepare for it (more on that right here: How To Give A Great Presentation (Seriously). I feel terrible for Bay. I watched that YouTube clip once and could not watch it again. It is very uncomfortable for everyone. What's most important is that it doesn't act as a deterrent for you (or anyone you know) to speak. If you do know your content and you have prepared, and you do freeze up (which can happen), please don't run off. Just stop. Let the audience know that you're human and that you are nervous. Apologize. Nobody will die and no one will hate you. At the same time, also let them know that you have prepared. Then, ask yourself this one question (in your mind): "what did I want to tell these good looking people?" And answer it to the audience.

You will be fine.

By Mitch Joel