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Speaking of Public Speaking

It’s called glossophobhia – the fear of public speaking, and it’s often cited as people’s number one fear.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld even dedicated a stand-up routine to the subject.

Whether it was fear, a lack of preparation or both, well-known Hollywood director Michael Bay walked off the stage during a Samsung press conference at the popular Consumer Electronics Show 2014 this month in Las Vegas, apparently flustered by teleprompter issues. Rather than gathering himself and continuing with his presentation, he quickly exited stage right, leaving his audience and co-presenter in the lurch, and prompting more than 1 million curious views on YouTube (see below).

Whether a client meeting or keynote speech, it’s common for even the most seasoned speakers to be nervous before making a presentation to any size group, but there are many tips people can consider to help calm their nerves and put them in control. NST’s Mark Olson and I presented on the topic last summer and Mark crafted a blog post to address this topic.

While directing from behind a camera is much different than public speaking to hundreds of people, there are a few quick tips Bay could have used to finish his presentation.

  • Never rely on technology. Despite the irony of CES being a conference focused on this very subject, Bay should have been prepared to ad-lib about the topic, should his teleprompter or PowerPoint fail or his notes get misplaced.
  • Storytelling is key. All communication is an element of storytelling. As a filmmaker, Bay tells stories all the time. He should have been prepared to share interesting personal stories to engage the audience and help pull them into the discussion.
  • Bay likely knows more about his presentation’s subject matter than the people he was speaking to, so he should be confident that he is the expert.
  • Bay should have encouraged the on-stage panel moderator to ask him questions to get him back into the flow of his presentation. Never walk off the stage.
  • Lastly, when Bay became lost in his presentation, he could have allowed the audience to ask questions. This generally creates a fun exchange that helps take the pressure off the speaker and pulls your audience into a dialogue.

Obviously, hindsight is 20/20. Public speaking is never easy, but with preparation and confidence the same presentation at CES that has now been viewed by more than 1 million people, could have the same number of views for all the right reasons.

What public speaking advice or horror stories can you share? Let us know on our Facebook page.

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