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January 9, 2014

Michael Bay’s CES Fail: Why Communication Strategies Can Make or Break You

Until a few days ago, Michael Bay made headlines for the movies he directed, mainly blockbuster, action flicks like those in the Transformers series. But now he’s making headlines and trending on Twitter for a very different reason: his embarrassing moment at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES).

Bay was hired by Samsung to speak in front of CES participants and media to promote Samsung’s new curved HDTVs. When he went to deliver his speech, the teleprompter failed. Thrown off, flustered, and unable to ad lib, Bay walked off stage, leaving Samsung Executive Vice President on stage to apologize for him.

Both Samsung and Bay are being pummeled with criticism and are in major clean-up mode.

What went wrong from a communications perspective?

Bay’s speech was entirely scripted, so when the teleprompter failed, he lost his crutch. He initially said “I’ll just wing this” but clearly proved unable to do so. The problem with scripted speeches that either haven’t been practiced or that rely on technology to be delivered is that there’s little room for error. While the teleprompter structure can be helpful, it’s very constraining and not forgiving when issues arise.

What can we learn from this very public communication incident?

  1. Speak from a frame or structure so you can be as much of yourself and “human” as you allow yourself to be. (Whenever possible, don’t speak from a script.)
  2. Prepare and practice your presentation. Practicing communication and being able to speak from the heart and from a platform not only ensures that you don’t need a script, but that you are more likely to recover when you face a snag. Plus, audiences are forgiving when presenters speak from the heart.
  3. Be prepared to make a call in the moment if and when something goes wrong: do you say something or do you just keep going? If the audience may be aware of an issue, it’s always better to acknowledge what’s happening and then move on. Faced with a technology glitch? Defuse the situation with humor and a comment like, “Must be the gremlins in the technology.”

I can empathize with what happened to Bay—the teleprompter glitch, and how he must have felt. That said, there were a number of ways to have handled the situation in a way that won the audience over, and to have possibly avoided the whole issue in the first place.

Do you need to re-think how you make presentations? If so, what changes might help?

- David Grossman


Image source: iVillage


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master messaging, corporate messaging, message methodology, david grossman, messagemap, message map

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