High-Pressure Presentations: Diagnosing Michael Bay’s Performance Bust

I rarely comment specifically on someone else’s speech, killer or bust. However, the Michael Bay video from CES has gone viral in a matter of moments and I’m already peeved by the surface-level commentary.

Be warned: this blog post is not going to bash Mr. Bay nor will it say, “It’s okay. Don’t sweat it.”

I want to give you a comprehensive view of the situation and share some insights that will help you for your next high-pressure presentations.

First thing’s first, you have to watch the video to know what we’re talking about:

Now, before anyone’s fangs start dripping venomous, judgmental comments, let us first take a moment to breathe and acknowledge that Mr. Bay is a fellow human being who experienced our deepest fear – dying on stage. And to boot, his moment happened on an international platform.

He is not having a good day. And thanks to the internet, he’s probably not going to have a good day for a few weeks.

So, tap into your empathetic center. Be thankful it wasn’t you.

Does having empathy for the man make the situation okay?

No.

Here’s why. Samsung executives didn’t catch Michael Bay on the Vegas strip and say, “Hey! Mikey! You doin’ anything right now? No? Why don’t you pop into this conference and say a few words about our new product. It’ll be a rockin’ time!”

This wasn’t a speaker practicing a speech at Toastmasters. This wasn’t a celebrity hired to just sit and look pretty in a club. And it wasn’t a notable official hired to just answer questions on a panel.

This man was hired to sell a product. Their chosen method? A scripted conversation with the aid of a teleprompter.

Possible Reasons for this Decision:

  • we don’t have time to memorize any talking points.
  • we don’t trust Mr. Bay to “wing it.”
  • we need to control this conversation.
  • our Samsung representative isn’t a “natural” at this either. (Oh, don’t you fret. I’ll get to him.)

Okay, so let’s stop here and just talk about the teleprompter decision, shall we?

Have you watched Saturday Night Live? Like, ever? SNL has trained actors who read teleprompters for a living. Are you ever fooled? Do you not see them turning to read their lines, looking past the person they are supposed to be talking to?

So, why in the world would Samsung think that two untrained non-actors be able to pull that off?! Even if the teleprompter DID work, I’m going to lay down money and say that the commercial still would have flopped. The inauthentic approach of a poorly scripted teleprompter reading would have been a blip of boredom for the crowd.

So, folks, let’s face it, this ship was going down no matter what.

Here is my educated guess. The corporate muckedy-mucks and Mr. Bay agreed to do the promotional speech with the teleprompter because that would be “easier” and they didn’t “have enough time” to come up with a better idea or rehearse.

LESSON: There is no substitution for solid planning and adequate rehearsal when it comes to speeches.

Technology is a beautiful thing, but if you use it as a crutch, it will crumble beneath you.

Which leads me to the next lesson: Know your message.

In an article I wrote for Entrepreneur, “How to Save Your Presentation from a Technology Meltdown,” I shared my experience with failed technology during a live webinar. What saved my hide and kept people listening during the catastrophic crash? Knowing my shit. I didn’t need the powerpoint to trudge on and give helpful content.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Because Samsung and Mr. Bay decided to go the ‘easy’ route with the teleprompter, neither of them were properly prepared. Which means no one had the ability to go off-book and just have a semi-normal conversation about Mr. Bay’s career and the new Samsung product.

Oh yes. The time has come. Michael Bay might be getting most of the heat right now, but please allow me to direct your attention to Executive Vice President of Samsung America, Joe Stinziano.

If you are going to hire a non-professional performer (I’m not counting Mr. Bay’s cameos) as your spokesperson, and you are smart enough to accompany that non-performer with a presentation buddy, then please be intelligent enough to make sure that the buddy is a solid performer. The point of the performance buddy should be to support the non-performer in case of any problems.

Mr. Stinziano failed at his post.

He was just as much a deer in the headlights as Mr. Bay. And this is his product. This video wouldn’t have gone viral if Mr. Stinziano had been quick enough to step in and say, “Well we all know that you make visually stunning movies, Michael. And that’s why we wanted to have you with us to announce The Curve. Let me tell everyone about the amazing features of this new invention.” And Mr. Bay easily could have pulled a Paris Hilton, stood there and looked pretty for a minute or two. Perhaps, he even could have had enough time to get his feet underneath him again and get back on track.

But, what happened instead? Mr. Bay goes cold. Mr. Stinziano’s life-line was “The Curve?”

You’re killing me Smalls.

Bottom Line

Michael Bay wasn’t the only one who messed up that day. Quite a few misguided decisions were made that allowed the stars to align for this viral mishap.

Should Mr. Bay have walked off stage? I’m going to go with, no. He apologized and clearly is embarrassed by the situation.

Will his career die because of this? I’m going to go with, no. He’s a high-powered individual, who has a name for himself outside of the public speaking world.

Will you get the same kind of leeway if this ever happens to you? I’m going to go with, no.

Don’t take shortcuts while preparing for your high-pressure presentations. Crutches easily crumble.  Tweet: Don't take shortcuts preparing for your high-pressure presentation. Crutches easily crumble. via @sharialexander http://ctt.ec/8JsNe+ <<< click to tweet.

And remember, the excuse “I just don’t have time to prepare” really means “I’m refusing to make this a priority.” Own your decisions. If you don’t take the proper amount of time to prepare and choose shortcuts, then don’t be surprised if you encounter your own version of a presentation meltdown.

 

Alright, let’s hear it! What’s your take on the whole Michael Bay, CES, Samsung situation? Did I get it right? Did I miss anything? Agree or disagree? Leave your comments below.

AND, if you found this post interesting, compelling, or helpful, I would love it if you shared it by clicking on the pretty social media buttons below.

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  • Clifton

    In my opinion, CES keynotes are relatively dry and unimpressive, I’ve been to the last 4. My vote is that this is a staged flop to be picked up throughout the social media sphere in order to jump to the head of the conversation about this conference that has just a deluge of products and innovation. In addition, the past few years of TVs have been sub-par in their innovation at CES and the number of TVs bought in 2013 actually showed flat-lined growth. All this leading me to believe that a huge gamble and risk would be conjured up in its announcement because the product itself couldn’t carry the weight alone.

    • http://www.observeconnectinfluence.com/ Sharí Alexander

      I considered the conspiracy theory while writing the post. Here’s why I don’t think it was. I don’t believe that Mr. Bay is that good of an actor.

      10 seconds in, when he shakes the hand of the executive, his leg flips up high behind him. This is an indicator of high anxiety.

      13 seconds in, he’s rubbing his hands. Another stress reaction.

      Around 38 seconds, you can hear the panting breath – which means his body is in extreme tension and he’s not taking full, normal breaths. Anxiety indicator.

      About 40 seconds in, the deep inhale is accompanied by a wavering voice. VERY DIFFICULT TO FAKE. (Again, I don’t have faith in his acting abilities.)

      Pacing and deep breathing around 50 seconds.

      So, conclusion, not fake.

      • Todd Huston

        Agree with the analysis about Mr. Bay and Mr.Stinzinio. Would also add that the teleprompter operator contributed by not being able to get the teleprompter in the correct position after Mr. Bay skipped a line. He made it go too far ahead then back then ahead again which confuse3d Mr. Bay. I often have to review with the AV staff on lighting, sound and technology. Just because they have the title of AV Engineer doesn’t mean they know what they are doing.

  • http://joestauffacher.com/ Joe Stauffacher

    Interesting insights. Clifton makes me wonder if it was a staged flop that does make for a viral story. I’ll heed your advice to be prepared. :)

  • http://isaiahhankel.com/ Isaiah Hankel, Ph.D.

    I’m glad you wrote this article because this is what happens when you’re not prepared, and yes, on either end, speaker or MC. Your brain does not work the same when you’re in front of a large group of speaker and it’s the prepared mind that get his or her point across and who can roll with the punches when shit goes wrong.

  • http://www.elpp.biz/ ELPProd

    I would say preparing for most things are important. A lot of people forget that if they know about it ahead of time, they should prepare in some way.

  • jackster12

    You hit it right on the head, Shari. The two biggest points, in my opinion, are that when you know (and care about) your message, you almost don’t need a script… and that Bay’s stage buddy was a HUGE drag on the incident. He inadvertently amplified the discomfort rather than helping to dissipate it.

    I give lots of speeches and prepare carefully, even when re-teaching the same subjects. Because even a good message can always be made better. Yet, I’ve been in this position too. For instance, I had a projector fail so that only I could see my slides. Given that this was still in the days before I realized how little each slide should contain, I was semi-screwed… reading things from slides… and apologizing over and over for not having each slide up on screen… etc.

    Since then, I keep to the Steve Jobs model, with a max of three bullet points and only 3-4 words per point max, if I can help it. Plus no text blocks. And sometimes just an image which I explain. And never, ever do I read directly from the slide. I never look at my own slides while I talk. Instead I know ahead the basic structure and let the slide just be support for whatever I’m saying.

    Would I still be stuck without the presentation in front of me? Maybe. Because sometimes I don’t have time to memorize the structure of what I’m talking about. (I ought to write down the outline on one side of an index card).

    That said, if I’m sharing the stage with a good partner, the back and forth is — or should be — a huge asset.

    If Samsung had any sense, what they would have done instead of making Michael Bay speak solo… is to arrange an interview like presentation, where someone smart about the goal of the presentation (not this guy) asks him full and engaging questions, much like the one you offered above, to which he can forget himself and the big scary audience, to delve into whatever natural passion and knowledge he has for the subject matter.

  • http://www.MyMiBoSo.com/ Sabrina

    Such a great analysis, Shari. It reminds me of my old acting days, when actors would complain about the “reader” in the casting office. If the actor is prepared – knows his stuff backward and forwards – then he will show up, stay present, and like a pro, make it work.

    Which intuitively brought me to another point – the reason the aforementioned imaginary actor would make this work is because his HEART is in it. Might that be another lesson we can learn from this? I don’t think Michael Bay nor Mr. Speaker Sidekick man had their heart in it from the get go. Sure we can fake it so far – but there’s something so powerful about having a passion about what we’re talking about, isn’t there?

    • http://www.observeconnectinfluence.com/ Sharí Alexander

      Great insight twitter. I was just having an email conversation with someone today about the article. I said, “In my heart of hearts, I believe that there were too many egos in the room.” Mr. Bay wanted to be on stage and so did the executive. They didn’t take a moment to think if there might be a better option. And, they were more concerned about getting their “face time” rather than falling in love with the product – so to speak. Now, that’s speculation on my part, but I feel like I’m pretty close to the mark with that one.

    

   

  

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