3 Strategies to Manage the Unexpected

3 Strategies to Manage the Unexpected

You may have  heard what happened to American film director and producer Michael Bay when he took the CES stage back in 2014.  If you haven’t, read Mr. Bay’s own account:

Wow! I just embarrassed myself at CES – I was about to speak for Samsung for this awesome Curved 105-inch UHD TV.  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 – then I walked off.  I guess live shows aren’t my thing.

It’s nice to see that Mr. Bay has taken the mishap in stride.

Of course, few of us will ever have to stand on such a big stage to deliver a presentation.  Still, we can all benefit from reflecting on what happened to Mr. Bay because, sooner or later, we may  also have to face technology and anxiety conspiring to drive us off stage.

Be Fully Present

By his own admission, Mr. Bay stepped on stage so excited about what he wanted to share that he completely “skipped over the Exec VP’s intro line.”  Like many presenters, Mr. Bay let his enthusiasm and the story he came to tell take his focus off his audience and his surroundings.

As presenters, we can make the same mistake if we forget that our presentation is a conversation with the audience.  And like any good conversation, it can only work when both parties are fully present.

TIP:  In our business we remind presenters that people are influenced by real people, not their PowerPoint slides or the fancy technology they bring to the presentation.  The next time you have a high-stakes presentation that increases your anxiety, think “conversation.”  Focus on your audience, and you’ll be able to handle any unexpected circumstances.

Learn to Improvise

Consider Jazz musicians.  They are able to improvise because they have practiced, practiced, practiced, and practiced some more.  They have become comfortable with their instrument and the fundamental principles of music.

Mr. Bay admits that “live shows” aren’t his thing, probably the reason he relied on a teleprompter.  You may never need to use a teleprompter, but a PowerPoint failure can derail a good presentation just as easily.

TIP:  If presentations are part of the job, get comfortable with your instrument… you.  Practice, practice, and practice some more. Great improvisation is born from intentional practice and preparation.

Remember that Your Audience Wants You to Succeed

For years, we have been hearing the statistics:  our number one fear is not death but public speaking.  Could it be that we have the wrong perception of our audience?  Maybe we conjure up images of poker-faced CEOs, arms crossed and daring us to hold their attention.

After Mr. Bay took to his blog and wrote his brief account of the CES fiasco, his audience rallied behind him with over 400 encouraging messages. It was very refreshing to see that while the media focused on the failure, his audience took on a different approach:

No problem Michael. Everybody makes mistakes.

Don’t sweat it Mr. Bay. Stuff happens. You’ve achieved a great deal and this won’t hurt you at all. In fact, you’re providing a welcome reminder that we all mess up sometimes… but it’s ok!

TIP:  The next time anxiety begins to build at the thought of facing a scary audience, think of them as your peers and friends who want you to succeed.  They really do!

Go get them!

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