We are all Michael Bay… or are we?

In case you missed it this week, Hollywood director Michael Bay had some problems presenting at the Consumer Electronics Show event sponsored by Samsung.

Here is a link to coverage of this epic “meltdown” on Business Insider.

First, I would like to express compassion for Mr Bay. This kind of experience could happen to anyone; such is the stuff from where nightmares are woven. Apparently, he had been hired to be what we used to call a “booth babe” in Comdex days – someone hired to stand in the booth or on the stage who has little knowledge of the product or connection to the company. Calling it a “meltdown”, as Business Insider did, isn’t accurate. I’d be happy to demonstrate what a meltdown looks like if they want to Skype me.

The teleprompter went out. That happens. Even though the Samsung Exec onstage was trying to help, Michael couldn’t continue and left the stage. The “smattering” of applause is painful.

We all face these challenges from time to time. I’ve had projector bulbs blow out, cables fail after being tested and no projector at all, even though one was specified*. You simply have to be ready for things to go wrong.

  • Take an improv class. I certainly recommend the organizations in the ComedySportz family, and there are other good ones as well. Improv teaches you flexibility, to respond to the unexpected, to be inspired by events as they occur and to connect with your audience in the moment as it is. You learn that perfection is a myth. You also learn that mistakes are opportunities instead of death sentences.
  • Limit yourself to doing events that emotionally connect with you, your life and your values. If something goes wrong, you can feel what needs to happen.
  • Understand the selling point of the event. Do your homework. Have some talking points ready.
  • Have a sidekick ready. Sales teams are more effective than lone wolves. Michael didn’t recognize that the other person onstage was there to help him.
  • Make the other person look good. Whether it’s the tech team, your co-presenter or your audience, don’t throw anyone under the bus. Make them look like heroes for sticking with you.
  • Tell your stories. Whether to kill time until technology gets fixed or to connect with the audience, your stories matter, as long as they are real, a little bit self-deprecating and most of all, told with heart.

A little improvisational training could have prepared Michael Bay and made him a hero. He got hired for something he wasn’t passionate about, and he clearly did not prepare. Everybody lost. It must have been painful to be in the room. Audiences want you to succeed, and they take it pretty hard when you give up.

I personally know hundreds of talented improvisors who would have seized that technological failure as a huge opportunity. I’ve led Applied Improvisation Training for hundreds of companies and thousands of people who, with what they learned in the few hours we spent together, would have stayed on that stage and sold that product hard.

I’ll see you in Improv Class or at an Applied Improvisation Workshop.

* If someone forgets to provide a projector, you can pretend that one is there and talk about your “slides” anyway – I learned that as a joke at an AIN Conference but actually used it with a paying client audience a few months later. They thought it was hilarious and even asked questions about my “bullet points”.

Patrick Short will be the MC at an event in February, for 270 people from 60 companies, and he can’t wait for something unexpected to happen.

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