Public speaking: Just how bad can it get?

by Anthony Demangone

I’m sure many of you give talks.  Perhaps it is at board meeting. Or a local Rotary Club.

If you’re like me, there’s likely a butterfly or two before you begin your talk.  That is natural.

But deep down inside, quite a few folks have a fear: What if I freeze on stage? What if my voice, brain, or both simply stop working?

It happened this week at the Consumer Electronics Show.  (International Business Times.) Hollywood director Michael Bay was called on stage to give a talk and help pitch a new television.

And then the teleprompter malfunctioned. 

Bay became flustered, couldn’t find his train of thought, and eventually walked off stage – apologizing as he went. All of this took place in about a minute.  You can see the video from the story above.

Personally, I feel bad for Bay. He lived through what many people believe is their worst nightmare. But I will say this – the fiasco serves as a great reminder. 

Bay didn’t appear to have notes. When the teleprompter stopped working, he didn’t have a plan B. And he didn’t seem comfortable with the teleprompter from the get-go.

There are two lessons from this, and I’ve been burned by forgetting both every now and then.

  1. Be prepared.  Know your talk. Know the material “on either side” side of your talk.  By that, I mean – if you’ll mention a book, be prepared to talk about that book. If you mention a movie, you better have seen it. Each topic you bring up could stir a question that could go in any direction. A great amount of preparation is essential.
  2. Always understand your AV.  Audio/Visual aids are great. But I’ve had laptops stop working. Microphones won’t work right. It happens. You have to have a plan B.
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