The Real Michael Bay Horror Movie

Michael Bay—the director and producer whose films include Armageddon, Transformers, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre—had a real-life horror moment yesterday during the opening seconds of a speech he was set to deliver at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

When he hit the stage, his teleprompter wasn’t in the right place. And without a scriptwriter nearby, Bay was at a complete loss. So he stopped. And restarted. And stopped again. And then, when all else failed, he walked off the stage, accompanied only by a mumbled “I’m sorry.”

Bay has created a lot of cringe-worthy scenes in his career. But none have been this difficult to watch.

Bay had at least five good choices when he realized his teleprompter wasn’t working.

1. He Could Have Replaced “Oh, Shit” with “I Can Rescue This”

I’ve asked hundreds of clients what words go through their mind when moments like this occur. The most common reply is “Oh, shit.” Since that’s an automatic response, don’t try to fight it. But the moment you notice it, replace it with, “Okay, this is going to be tough, but I can do this. I’ll show them what a professional I am with my calm demeanor.”

2. He Could Have Exhibited Humor

Great speakers have lines ready for moments like this. For example, he could have said, “My teleprompter just went out. As the director of Transformers, you’d think I should know how to transform it from a broken teleprompter to a working one.”

Michael Bay

3. He Could Have Waited a Moment

When Bay realized that his prompter wasn’t working, he could have simply stopped and waited for a moment. The key is that he needed to maintain his poise in that difficult moment and convey a sense of “I got this.” If the prompter didn’t come back, he could have said something such as:

“I’m afraid the teleprompter has gone haywire. I worked hard to create a presentation that you’d really enjoy, so I’d like to wait for another moment to see if it comes back.”

4. He Could Have Followed the Moderator’s Lead

Bay was fortunate to be on stage with an experienced moderator who was trying desperately to help Bay save himself. But Bay didn’t take him up on several follow-up questions. The moderator was making clear that instead of the preplanned presentation, they were just going to change the format to an interview. Had Bay gone along for the ride, many people in the audience might not even have noticed the change.

5. He Could Have Walked Off With Grace

At worst, he could have walked off the stage…temporarily…by using a variation of the quote in the third point above:

“I’m afraid the teleprompter has gone haywire. I worked hard to create a presentation that you’d really enjoy, so I’d like to step off stage for a moment, give everyone a chance to reset, and then we’ll try again.”

Michael Bay 2

Here’s What Michael Bay Blamed For His Performance

Bay released a brief statement on his blog, in which he said:

“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.”

Wrong, Michael. There’s no reason you can’t deliver a great presentation, and saying “live shows aren’t my thing” is a cop-out.

You just went into it with the wrong idea. You shouldn’t have been using a teleprompter, for exactly this reason. Instead, you could have had a few “memory-trigger phrases” on a monitor in front of you and/or on note cards placed on a small table or stool on the stage. If you went blank, you could have calmly referred to them.

Next time, think paper not prompter—and practice—and you’ll probably be fine.

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