Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Still the Man: Michael Bay (aka How to Speak in Public)

You might have heard about CES, the Consumer Electronic Show, going on in Las Vegas this week.  All of your top technology brands and manufacturers trot out their latest gadgets, sometimes hocked by celebrities.  Samsung brought along multi-billion dollar director Michael Bay to discuss their new curved television.  While the outspoken helmer of Bad Boys, The Rock, Transformers and Pain & Gain has never been shy to voice his opinion, he experienced a bizarre, awkward and downright embarrassing moment on stage.

Apparently the teleprompter malfunctioned, leaving the noted control freak on his own.  After a brief attempt to "wing it", Bay excused himself and quickly walked off stage.  Later, in a blog post on his official site, Bay said he got overexcited, skipped the intro, then the prompter failed and he walked off citing live speaking wasn't his thing.

While it's quite surprising to see such an outspoken and seemingly confident man stammer over his own movies and technology, it was hardly the "meltdown" people are labeling it.  Who knows what the circumstances were, maybe he just flew in from working on Transformers 4, maybe he didn't have a chance to review everything on the TV he should have or maybe he just got stage fright.  They say Glossophobia aka the fear of public speaking is the number one fear among humans.  At least according to surveys circa 1977, 1993 and 2009 as well as Russell Crowe in American Gangster.

I'm sure this will add fuel to the fire to all those passionately negative fans in the world who blame Bay for anything that ever goes wrong in movies.  For some reason, making slick, cool, fun, star filled entertainment just doesn't garner him respect, even if he's raked in the billions for studios and never made an unwatchable flick (Transformers II got close though...).  To me, he's still the man.  Why?  Because he's a doer!

I've never had a problem speaking in public or in front of crowds and have been commended on it in the past.  What's the secret?  Confidence.  Not cockiness, not arrogance, but confidence.  You can see through "swag" in a heartbeat.  A poseur is a poseur is a poseur.  Like any conversation, if you don't have anything meaningful to say but just want to be involved so people know you're alive then nothing positive can really happen if you're put in front of a crowd.  What's the most important issue?  Knowing your subject.  Once you know your subject you have a sturdy base to design a presentation.  Having a point is also very important.  What are you trying to convey?  What do you want people to take away?  Being excited for the subject helps too, I once sat in on an Microsoft Excel training session which should have been dry and sleep inducing but the instructor loved Excel so much, you couldn't help but be a little happier about learning.  Positive energy meeting neutral energy is better than negative energy meeting it's neutral or negative counterpart.

Slow down.  Don't be in a rush.  Think about what you're doing, make yourself notes and give yourself moments to regroup.  You won't lose an audience in the time it takes to sip some water.  Lastly, think of someone you admire.  In college, I thought of Tyler Durden, you know, Brad Pitt in Fight Club?  He was just the coolest guy in the world, nothing got to him.  That's the sort of mindset one must enter when being faced with a crowd of strangers.  Lock eyes with them.  Engage them.  You must have done something right if you're the one standing up in front.  Remember, You are the prize.  But if you don't believe that, nobody else will.

How you can not like a guy like Michael Bay, who gave us this, is beyond me.  "Tell your mama!"

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