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What do you do when things go wrong?

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Movie Director Michael Bay (Transformers, Pain & Gain, Pearl Harbor) had a simple enough job at the CES show that recently took place in

Michael Bay leaving the stage

Las vegas. All he had to do was walk out on stage after an upbeat introduction, say a few words (actually, it wasn't even that; all he had to do was read a few from a teleprompter) about a new Samsung TV, and walk offstage. Not that difficult, you might think. But he turned it into a train wreck, as the video clip below shows.

He screwed up reading the teleprompter and after a pathetic half-hearted attempt at winging it, dried up completely and walked off, leaving the Samsung executive VP who introduced him to 'thank him for joining us' and try to get a desultory round of applause from the less than impressed audience. If my tone sounds dismissive and unsympathetic ..... it is. I can feel for him when he screwed up reading the teleprompter, but his reaction? Walking off the stage in defeat when he's a professional and he'd been PAID to do this? For someone who is often in the publice eye? Appalling.

My view on this is he just hadn't rehearsed. And let's face it, it's not like he had to memorise War & Peace here. I don't know how long his product endorsement was supposed to last, but it couldn't have been more than a few minutes. And I think Bay knew he hadn't rehearsed enough (at all?), because you can see it in his nervous body language. Watch how he kicks his leg up behind him when he shakes hands, and follows it up with hand-wringing and some hand to face gestures (see Giving away your thoughts: non-verbal 'leakage' and The power of posture).

So what should he have done? Well first ... if you're going to use a teleprompter, use it properly. Don't adlib, add anything or miss anything out, because the person operating it will get confused, lose their place, and then may overcompensate by speeding it up or slowing it down. This is what happened here. It wasn't a teleprompter malfunction; it was a Michael Bay malfunction.

After the event Bay said, "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, and I walked off ..."

Second: as I've already said he should have rehearsed. Even though he had a teleprompter, he should have known a short presentation like this fluently. Word-for-word. Like the back of his hand. When the stakes are high, there is NO EXCUSE for not rehearsing enough ( see Practise, practise, PRACTISE!: the 10,000 hour rule).

Third: if his mind went blank along with the teleprompter (and this can easily happen: see Adrenalin attack! What happens to your body in a stressful situation), he should have just stopped for a moment, sipped from a glass of water and looked around the audience. You can easily make this look like a deliberate, poignant pause, the audience will never know. Time passes much quicker for you than the audience; a pause of a few seconds will be as good as 30 to you. And memory lapses rarely last very long. After a few seconds he would have snapped out of his funk and remembered something about the TV.

Fourth: he could have had a prepared ad-lib to cover his panic. This is a pre-planned, mildly amusing (it doesn't need to be side-splittingly funny) line to make you appear in control. He could have said something like, "Oops! The teleprompter's just malfunctioned, it's turned into a blank screen. Guess this is the equivalent of Megatron turning into a food blender." This would have made him look confident and in control, and the audience would then have sympathized and been on his side (see Planned ad-libs: what to do when things go wrong).

Fifthly, he should have stayed on stage. The guy's in showbiz. Has he never heard of, "The show must go on"? He was getting PAID for this by Samsung, they deserved better. ANYTHING he said would have been better than walking off.


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