Famed movie director Michael Bay had a simple chore to handle at the CES show currently underway in Las Vegas. He had to walk out on stage after a terrific, high-voltage introduction, read some words endorsing a new Samsung TV from a teleprompter, and get back offstage. What could possibly go wrong? Well, here’s how Michael himself explains it:
Wow! I just embarrassed myself at CES – I was about to speak for Samsung for this awesome Curved 105-inch UHD TV. I rarely lend my name to any products, but this one is just stellar. I 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.
Watch the video. It’s riveting and awful.
As the entire human species knows, the show must go on. That means, when you’re onstage and the eyeballs are on you, you must deliver. You don’t have to deliver brilliantly. But you do have to show up – and go the distance. Instead Bay gave up.
What’s interesting is that his body language from his entrance signaled his discomfort, even before the teleprompter problem. Watch his leg shooting up like a teenager getting kissed as he shakes the hand of the emcee. Bay is already not doing well, and his body knew he was in trouble before the trouble began. That made it much harder for him to respond to the teleprompter problem when it arose.
The moral of this sad tale? There are 3 takeaways.
1. Prepare for the worst. You need to rehearse any time the stakes are high. You need to rehearse, period. And you need to have a back up plan for technological problems, because those always happen, one way or another.
2. Hope for the best. You need to psych yourself up emotionally to go out and deliver a strong performance. If you focus on your nerves and what could go wrong, you’ll walk out like Bay, already a basket case. An accident waiting to happen. Instead, focus on the positive opportunity. Tell yourself, “Wow, what a chance to connect with hundreds of wonderful people! It’s going to be great!” If you just stand backstage thinking about what could go wrong, then you’ll start out with a problem that can rapidly escalate out of control, as it did for Bay.
3. Focus, not on yourself, but on the job you need to do. Michael’s job was to say something nice about the Samsung TV. When the teleprompter when wrong, and Bay said, “I’ll just wing it,” that’s exactly what he should have done. The emcee tried to prompt him to do this, saying, in a highly adrenalized voice, “The Curve?” and gesturing toward the TV. But Bay was too focused on his own discomfort, and let go of the task.
Bay did acknowledge the hippo in the room – the malfunctioning teleprompter – but he wasn’t clear enough about his assignment to get it done in spite of that hippo. Learn from Bay! He’s a brilliant director and will survive this embarrassment. After all, he’s supposed to shine behind the camera, not in front of it. But anyone who makes a living – even in part – from onstage work needs to drill the lesson deep into the psyche: focus, show up, go the distance and get the job done. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to get the job done.
Image Source: Wikipedia