Presentation Meltdown

It happened just three days ago, at CES 2014, an annual international expo of business and consumer technologies in Las Vegas. At the Samsung presentation, Michael Bay fumbled at the beginning of his talk and walked offstage after just one minute. Apparently, he lost his place on the teleprompter and couldn’t carry on without it.

You can see what happened here:

Since then, everybody’s talking about Michael Bay’s Presentation Meltdown. But we think most people may be missing what’s really important in all this.

The question everybody should be asking? Is there a lesson we can learn from the experience of this well-known Hollywood director and producer of the “Transformers” film series? And, how can we avoid panicking in a presentation?

Yes, there are big lessons to be learned here. Three, in fact.

1 – Don’t trust technology!

A teleprompter, a computer, a PPT file – are all technologies that can help a presenter. But if you’re up on that stage, they shouldn’t be your focus during a presentation. You, the presenter, should never be dependent on tools like these. First, because your audience is there to listen to you, and to learn from you, and not from a robotic-type person simply reading bullet points from a teleprompter. Second, because if something fails – if the lights go out, if you lose your place on the teleprompter, or something else equally bad happens – you need to be able to carry on with your speech and your presentation. So bear in mind that technology is great. It can help you in many different ways to create and deliver a fabulous presentation – as long as you have your story, your speech and your presentation well-rehearsed, as we always tell our customers.

2 – Rehearse until you become the presentation

We’ve said it many times, but this is in fact one of the single most important stages of presentation development. And it’s why we advise our clients to know their stories by heart. This doesn’t mean you need to know every word of your speech. But it does mean you need to be 100% comfortable with your story line and with the content of your presentation, so you can tell that story as if you were just chatting with a friend in a coffee shop. The rule here is: study what you’re going to do until it becomes natural. To achieve this, you should study your speech and your presentation the way you used to study for big exams. Like any student before an exam, a presenter is always going to be more nervous knowing not enough studying was done. On the other hand, when a presenter knows the homework has been done right, confidence goes up, because the presenter knows he/she “is” the presentation, and so not much can go wrong. Believe us when we say that the best way to decrease your anxiety and nervousness before a presentation is by rehearsing it as much as you can.

3 – Make sure your first minute is brilliant

The first minute of every presentation is a very important moment, not only for the audience – because it’s the first moment when attention can be caught – but also for the presenter, because this is the moment the presenter knows he/she can do this thing and can do it right. If this first moment is brilliant, confidence goes up and the minutes to come will probably go smoothly and according to plan. The presenter feels in control and can convey that feeling to the audience. But if the first minute goes wrong, if the presenter forgets what to say, trips over something, confidence is lost, and turning the bad situation around becomes really hard – so hard that some presenters just can’t do it. Michael Bay is a good example of everything we just said.

So to avoid this technology-dependence pitfall, you should also plan your first minute carefully, in detail. And for that first minute only we do advise that you know every single word of your speech, to avoid mistakes and the need to improvise.

What happened to Michael Bay the other day in Las Vegas is the nightmare of every presenter and something that can realistically happen to anybody. But one thing’s sure, if you follow the 3 suggestions we’ve shared with you today, the chances of such a disaster happening to you will be very, very small.