Public speaking is hard. And “winging it” is even harder. Just ask Michael Bay.
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The “Transformers” director had a rough time at this year’s International CES Monday after getting flustered during a presentation when his teleprompter gave out and he abruptly left the stage. Bay had been participating in an unveiling of Samsung’s new 10-inch curved UHD television.
After his brisk exit, Bay posted on his blog: "Wow! I just embarrassed myself at CES...I just 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."
Public speaking is no easy feat, and even presenting in front of a small crowd can give the average person stage fright, says career coach Kathy Caprino.
“It can be the scariest thing in the world because you feel you are so on the line,” Caprino says of speaking to an audience of any size. “To have everyone staring at you, waiting and looking for you to speak is very intimidating.”
And off-the-cuff improvising, as Bay learned, isn’t easy either.
“Improvising when you are nervous is incredibly hard,” Caprino says. “But that is really the only way to give a talk, reading a prompter is not the way to give a speech, but for so many people, their brain freezes and they are unable to wing it.”
Here are a few tips from Caprino to help you gain your footing if you find yourself pulling a “Michael Bay” when presenting at work:
No. 1: Don’t rely solely on external cues. Caprino recommends having a hand-written list of your talking points and core message to keep you on track in case the unexpected happens.
“You can never rely on just a power point or a teleprompter,” she says. “There are always technical glitches. Have a paper with a reminder of the five key messages you want.”
No. 2: Know your material. Practice your speech until you know it cold and will be able to give it no matter the environment.
“You should be able to extemporize about what you are presenting so it flows organically and naturally,” Caprino says. If something does go wrong, she recommends taking “a step back, make a joke and regain some composure.”
No. 3: How you present is more important than what you say. Your voice level and body language are just as important of what you are saying to help better engage with your audience.
“This is what people will remember much more than the words you say,” Caprino says. “Think about your verbal messages and level of excitement.”
No. 4: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Caprino says Bay’s fatal mistake was not being able to bounce back and laugh at himself after he got flustered.
“The reason why people crash and burn is that they think it’s the end of the world if they flub it,” she says. “Even incredibly well-known people are not the most concise orators. You have to be able to laugh at yourself.”