Stage Fright: The Presenter’s Worst Nightmare

  1. Why-Is-There-So-Much-Drama-in-My-Life

You might recall that back in January 2014, Hollywood film director, Michael Bay, (the guy responsible for the popular Transformers franchise) was scheduled to speak at the launch of Samsung’s Curved 100-inch LED television at the Consumers Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

At first, everything was going according to plan as Bay took to the stage to talk about the new gadget with Samsung’s Executive Vice President— who was clearly looking forward to leveraging Bay’s endorsement. The exchange that followed between Bay and the Samsung executive has to be one of the most embarrassing moments in presentation history. In the unlikely event you haven’t watched it, here it is:

Basically, Bay’s teleprompter (autocue) went on the blink. As a result, he only managed to convey a few credible sentences, before wringing his hands in despair whilst grappling to find a few more meaningful words and eventually leaving the stage. Later he would tell the TMZ, that he had a “human moment” which saw him totally go blank to the point where even speaking off-the-cuff was impossible.

What lesson can be learnt from this experience, besides never underestimating the power of YouTube to faithfully preserve some of mankind’s most humiliating moments? Well, I believe that this nugget of wisdom holds true: ‘a presenter can never be prepared enough’.

That involves preparing for any eventuality, especially when technological aids will be used in a presentation— even in cases where a teleprompter will be provided, an adequately prepared communicator should always be in a position to ensure that the show goes on no matter what.

It was said of Winston Churchill that he invested the best part of 8 hours preparing for every 5 minutes of impromptu public speaking. Now, perhaps 8 hours might be a bit much, but if your objective is to present a polished, credible and composed persona, here are 4 tips that will ensure that nothing is left to chance:

  1. Research who will be in the audience so that you can anticipate their needs and meet their expectations,
  2. Make sure that you have a well thought-out message and that you are rehearsed enough to not only rely on the your PowerPoint visuals or autocue to prompt you, but to think succinctly on your feet should the need arise.
  3. Should you lose your train of thought (which can happen to any of us), pause for a moment (maybe take a sip of water whilst you give yourself a chance to think) and then calmly continue.
  4. Finally, if you happen to be the spokesperson for a specific cause, product or service, make it your business to understand the ins and outs of what makes that offering special, so that you can speak with authority on the topic be it in a formal or informal environment.

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