Public Speaking Tips: What This Epic Michael Bay Meltdown Teaches Us

I’m warning you now, this is awkward:

Told you. Now, the point of this post is not to poke fun at Michael Bay. He’s a movie director, not a public speaker. But I would like to take this opportunity (thanks Mike), to highlight a couple of huge public speaking errors Bay committed that led to his disaster and use them as teaching points to help you next time you have to speak in public.

Error #1: He used a script

This is almost always a bad idea when speaking in public. The thinking is that by writing out every word of your talk beforehand and just reading it that you will not get lost or forget what to say. It’s a safety net.

More like a booby trap. The problem with reading a script is twofold. First, it ignores the transactional nature of human communication. Public speaking is not just about the words coming out of your mouth; it is about eye contact and body language and nonverbal feedback from the audience. None of those crucial elements are at play when you are reading. Even if Bay’s performance had gone off without a hitch, it would have been stiff and lifeless. 70% of communication is in the nonverbal details; if you speak from what you know, not what you are reading, and mess up a little, your natural delivery will make up for it every time. It might seem counter-intuitive, but it works.

The second major problem with script reading is that it acts like a crutch. If you know you are going to have a manuscript in front of you, you are less likely to actually have command of your subject, making you more dependent on the script. And then what happens if something goes wrong with your lines (as happened to Bay)? BOOM goes the booby trap.

Instead of script reading, work hard to know your subject well, make a tight outline, and deliver your speech extemporaneously. You will instantly be better.

Error #2: He didn’t practice (enough)

I may be out to lunch here, but I am willing to bet Bay did not practice this performance much, certainly not enough. Think about this: what was the topic of his talk? MICHAEL BAY. He was so unprepared for a small technical snafu that he couldn’t even talk about his own life passion, moviemaking.

News flash people. Speaking on stage before a live audience is nothing like a movie set. There are no retakes when things go badly. Especially if you are delivering a talk on a big stage in front of many important people, it is imperative you practice a ton. That way, if something goes to crap, you are ready to bob and weave.

Error #3: He quit

Yes, it is terrifying to be in front of people with nothing to say. Yes, you want to bolt. But here’s the deal. Out of every 100 human beings, something like 90+ are more afraid of public speaking than almost anything else. Which means they admire you just for being up there in the first place. Your audience wants to see you do well, and they will cut you slack for hitting a speed bump in your talk.

So, if you are in a spot where you can’t think of what to say, just level with the audience. Tell them you have blanked out for a moment. Seriously, say just that. They will understand and let you compose yourself. Then take a deep breath, consult your outline, laugh it off and keep moving. DO NOT QUIT. I know it’s hard to believe, but if you push through, you will get it back together.

In fact, a moment like that can actually work to your advantage. If Sylvester Stallone has taught the world anything, it’s that people like a comeback story. If you falter in your speech, take a moment to get it together, and then finish strong, your audience will admire you all the more. You will be the Rocky Balboa of public speaking.

I feel for Michael Bay. It is a humiliating experience to meltdown in front of a crowd. But let’s learn from his experience. In this case, DO NOT be like Mike. Don’t commit his errors. Turn them around and be a better speaker.

Thanks for reading.

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