Mini meltdowns fuel social media and film maker/producer Michael Bay (think Transformers, Armageddon) produced a trending hit in Las Vegas this week at CES, one that should serve as a cautionary tale for anyone who is ever going to make a public appearance, which means everyone.
In case you missed it, Bay walked on stage at the Consumer Electronics Show in front of a capacity crowd to promote one of Samsung’s newest offerings. Instead, he was hit by a personal polar vortex and froze on stage.
If you’ve ever attended a convention, you already know how dreadful and awkward “keynote presentations” can be, even when they go according to plan. They are painfully scripted and often poorly executed by ill-prepared individuals who appear to be reading from teleprompters for the first time in their lives.
Bay managed to make his appearance even more uncomfortable for the audience when he lost his place on the teleprompter and got flustered.
“I’ll just wing this,” he said, trying to regain his composure. But those three words are the kiss of death in media. Bay tried to answer the next question posed by the Samsung executive, but was still lost. He apologized and walked off the stage to a smattering of applause from the perplexed audience.
Bay later tweeted that he had embarrassed himself and said, “I guess live shows aren’t my thing.” That’s not true. Being ill-prepared is not his thing, nor is it anyone’s thing. Stage fright is very real, but it can be conquered with the right training and persistent preparation.
I’ve coached Fortune 500 executives, high-powered attorneys and strong political leaders and the ones who fair best in media interviews and on stage are the individuals who insist on intense preparation and rigorous training. It’s the ones who believe they can “wing it” who crash and burn more often than not.
My hunch is Bay was woefully unprepared for his appearance on stage and planned on relying heavily on the teleprompter. What happened to him would not happen to anyone who stubbornly insists on rehearsal and dogged preparation.
Preparation for public appearances, speaking engagements or media interviews includes imagining every possible scenario and how you would handle it. More importantly, it includes knowing and being able to easily communicate your core messages before entering the arena so that in the event of a brain freeze, you can reflexively fall back to your message.
Bay’s gaffe will draw attention for a short time and no doubt, he’ll return to making blockbuster movies. But the moment will live forever on the internet and should serve as a reminder of the importance of practice and preparation for any public appearance.