Although from Samsung’s point of view it’s all extra publicity and although many of us will sympathise with the Hollywood film director who lost his nerve when the teleprompter failed, Michael Bay’s performance at this press conference is not one to be emulated:
How can we avoid this ever happening to us? By making sure we’re self-sufficient and prepared for any eventuality.
Know what you’re going to say. As I’ve mentioned often before, you will not do yourself justice in front of an audience if you haven’t rehearsed exactly what you want to say. However expert you are in the field, this is a completely separate matter from being able to talk about it smoothly and coherently. You won’t be able to articulate your thoughts clearly and effectively unless and until you have expressed them out loud many times.
If the situation is an interview rather than a straight speech, you’ll have to be flexible with your prepared material and you may need to deliver your messages in a different order from what you planned, in a slightly different way to accommodate at least appearing to be directly answering the question. But if you’ve prepared thoroughly you won’t be lost for words. In Michael Bay’s case, if he’d thought through the points he wanted to make, he could have successfully put them across even without the autocue.
Stay grounded. If something goes wrong, you’re still in control of how you react. You’ve been invited on to the stage because people want to hear what you’ve got to say: I repeat, you are in control. By all means let the audience in on what’s happened, both to explain your momentary lapse and to buy yourself a few moments to gather your wits, but then smile and brazen it out. You will not be judged harshly for making a mistake – still less when the problem is external to you – only on how you deal with it.
In public speaking, attack is the best form of defence. Beating an ignominious retreat in the way Michael Bay did is an impulse I’m sure we can all understand but, somehow, in the heat of battle, we have to keep calm, take a deep breath and keep fighting. Of course, a quick surrender is preferable to a long-drawn-out death and Mr Transformer probably made the right call in the circumstances, but it’s my mission to train and arm as many public speakers as possible so that not only will they feel no urge to desert, they will emerge from every contact triumphant.