How to Avoid Michael Bay's C.E.S. Flub at Your Next Event

Event professionals share tips on how they work with speakers to avoid potential embarrassments—and recover from them when all else fails.

By Mitra Sorrells January 14, 2014, 7:30 AM EST

Movie director Michael Bay appeared flustered and then walked off the stage at a Samsung promotional event at C.E.S. just minutes into his talk. Later he explained the exit in his blog, writing, "I got so excited to talk, that I skipped over the Exec V.P.’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."

Video Still: Courtesy of Mashable

One of the most viral moments from last week's International C.E.S. showed movie director Michael Bay stumble and make a sudden exit from a Samsung promotional event. We asked event professionals to share their tips on how they work with speakers to avoid potential problems.

"'What's my motivation?’ is an old cliché that rings with some truth in this situation. Prepping speakers and presenters so that they feel comfortable and they understand the goals you want them to achieve is so important. If they understand their 'motivation,' they are less likely to be utterly dependent on tools like a teleprompter.”
Erin Branham, president and founder, Apartment Two Events

“Our team always does calls with speakers before the conference. It’s a lot of work, but so worth it to speak with each one.”
Karen Hartline, founder, Reinventing Events

“Have a plan A through D. Think in advance about what you might do if you lose your place, if something goes wrong with the technology, or if you get distracted. Plan A is an easy quick fix, like a funny comment while you get to the correct place in your slide deck. Plan D might be saying to the audience, 'I seem to have lost my place. Please give me a moment and I'll get back to it.' The audience is on your side, and a human moment like that can connect you to them even more. Taking an improv class is also a great way to train yourself to deal with the unexpected and will improve your stage presence and confidence.”
Kelly Stoetzel, content director, TED

“It's more important to have a professional public speaker who is charismatic and fun on stage to help sell your product than it is to have a 'big name' in the industry. Michael Bay makes awesome films and is a powerhouse as a director. However, directing is a behind-the-camera job. It's easy for him to chat about a film he just made in an interview, because he's passionate about it. But because he's not a professional speaker and most likely not passionate about a new TV that's coming out, it's not going to come to him as easily.”
Blume Bauer, co-owner, Siren Song Productions

“On site, our communications team, along with our tech team and the venue’s tech team, schedule run-throughs with each and every one of our speakers. We do a sound check, and we allow them to view and/or drive whatever visuals are aiding their talk. This run-through also includes the individual that is introducing the speaker, to rehearse a seamless transition.”
Julie Ackerman, senior director for public relations and communications, PMMI: the Association for Packing and Processing Technologies

“Speakers should be engaged with the product, or at least [get] a decent preshow briefing.”
Kirsty Healy, event manager, George P. Johnson

“If you have an expert who's a speaker, rather than a speaker who's an expert, make sure your moderator is the latter. An experienced moderator puts the speaker at his ease. In this case he could have created time for the prompter to realign and then asked the relevant question to get Michael back on cue. I think the key point is that he was in a bad head space from the get-go. Just look at the anxiety his body is expressing even when he walks on. He skips his first line, because he is so nervous. The teleprompter wasn't the issue, his mental state was the issue.”
Olivia Schofield, owner, Spectacular Speaking

One thing C.E.S. did right in this incident was having someone on stage with Michael Bay who could continue for him and avoid the awkward silence that everyone hates so much. This is an eye-opener. It is not just embarrassing for the speaker but is also uncomfortable for the audience. One thing speakers don't always remember when doing a talk is no one knows your script and what you are about to say. Which means you just talk about what you know. If you happen to miss any key points you wanted to mention, it's OK. Because no one knows.”
Timothy Bennett, founder, Armon Events

All of our client speakers have access to University of Fusion, a set of online presentation programs to help them refine their message, craft their story, and seek out the right visual support. We also provide a tip sheet in advance with what to wear, etc.”
Hugh Lee, president, Fusion Productions

“Pick qualified speakers, not just famous ones. People make the mistake of thinking famous equals quality, when in fact, one generally needs to search through many famous people to find one good enough to present. The last thing you want is a huge audience drawn to a train wreck of a celebrity.”
Cassius Wright, meeting and expo director, VenueOne

There should have been a hard copy of his talk available on the podium for him in the case of such an emergency. Technology is not always perfect. Human operators can fail, too. Good presentation coaching would have set him up for success, not failure in the event of any circumstance. Anticipating a failure and having a backup plan is essential to every show.”
Karen Marshall, owner, Marshall Event Productions

“He should not have been put in that position in the first place. Public speaking is not an easy task for most people and [it's] worse in front of a large group. Unfortunately, when you freeze to the level he did, an impromptu speech wouldn't have helped because he was unable to put any words together to form a sentence. He needed a lot more experience and training.”
Donna Felter, owner, Innovative Presentations

“Probably a pre-interview with the speaker before booking would have red-flagged Michael Bay's ease/unease as a speaker. In the TV talk show world, a pre-interview is crucial to a segment's success. Sometimes the best guest on paper is not the best guest on live TV. The same goes for meetings and live events.”
Lyn Henderson, president, Women in Film & Television, Florida Chapter

“Glitches like this happen more than we know. In this case it's very high-profile. A lesson for all of us.”
Jacques Blaauw, owner, J Events

“He just blew it. How many more rehearsals in front of empty seats does he need? He wasn't even at the product information. Review the video, he was basically answering the question, “What do you do for a living?” If he can't speak freely on that question for at least five minutes without a prompter then who knows what the problem was at the time. Additionally, the executive didn't help him. Instead of asking him about making movies—and getting him back on track—he pulled his attention towards the Samsung product, which he probably was not as well-informed [about].”
Bernie Gaps, owner, Absolutely Fabulous Events and Productions

Editor's note: Some of these comments were shared by readers on our social media networks. Join our discussions on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

Editor's note: Some of these comments were shared by readers on our social media networks. Join our discussions on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. - See more at:
Your email inquiry will be sent to 3 venue