I can hear it now: “Wow, I almost did a Michael Bay in there!”
It’s too bad that the exceptionally talented movie director Bay got caught in the social media blender with his Jan. 7 on-stage freeze-up at the Consumer Electronics Show when his TelePrompTer failed. He is likely to be forever associated with presentation paralysis. In reality, it’s just a blip for him. After all, he’s one of the top-grossing directors of all time. But what if stage fright were to happen to you? Would you be prepared?
For those of us who have done a lot of presenting, we know that it’s not a question of if you will encounter your own potential meltdown moment but rather when. What do we do when the lights go up and the technology goes down? If you start to wilt in “the big meeting,” you can’t simply pack your briefcase and walk out of the room. Well, you could, but you would lose credibility and potentially a lot more.
The first thing needed is a prevention plan (we’ll get to the recovery later). I asked my friend Tim Koegel, executive coach and best-selling author of the Exceptional Presenter book series, to help me create such a plan. Here’s Koegel’s recommendation:
1. Don’t Rely on Technology to Tell Your Story – You should be able to stand and deliver your presentation like you are telling a story to a friend. PowerPoint and other technology can provide a great backdrop for your presentation, but any technology can crash. You don’t have to crash with it!
2. Know Your Opening Cold – The first 60 seconds of your pitch are critical. If you start strong, you will feel more confident and relaxed as the presentation progresses. Practice your first 60 seconds out loud, at least 15 times. That’s 15 minutes well spent.
3. Don’t Try to Wing It – There is no substitute for preparation. You might think you are more relatable when you are speaking off the cuff, but the reality is that you appear to lack authority and conviction with an “aw, shucks” approach.
4. Don’t Read from a Script or a TelePrompTer – Unless you are a news anchor or a head of state, TelePrompTers are taboo. Scripts are great for rehearsal but can compound a collapse when you lose your way and can’t find your place.
5. Stay in Command – If you’re giving a speech, odds are you’re an expert on the topic. Don’t let someone else dictate the way you are going to present your material. Remember, you’re the one who is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the presentation. You’re the one whose video might go viral.
Meltdowns, technology glitches and memory lapses are part of presenting. Do not let the fear of a meltdown prevent you from telling your story, especially if your knowledge and mastery of the topic might inspire the audience!
“Mr. Bay, please come back to the stage for take two …”
Next up: The Recovery Plan
Mike Woods is the executive director, strategic partnerships at gyro.