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Avoid a Michael Bay Meltdown

Michael Bay at CES 2014

It’s been all over the news this week that Michael Bay had an epic meltdown on stage for Samsung at CES after the teleprompter malfunctioned and he simply froze.  As a professional speaker, I empathize with him. I think we’ve all had a moment where our brain short circuits and we totally forget where and who we are!  After looking at the video (and cringing throughout), I wanted to give you a few speaking tips so that you do not experience a Michael Bay moment. While I do believe that my participation in youth theater rid me of stage fright, I understand that giving a professional presentation is a whole heartedly different experience than dressing in costume and performing in a play (that’s my subtle hint that some theater classes may also help). Nonetheless, here is my advice:

Prepare, prepare, prepare.

You cannot prepare enough for a formal speech. You have to thoroughly familiarize yourself with the material, know what you will say when each slide appears and memorize key phrases which are your impact points. Preparing for your speech also means rehearsing several times before you do it live. This makes for a more natural performance, because you are comfortable with the material.

I actually go through my whole presentation without the computer, so that I can visualize the slides I am speaking on. This will help you rely less on the screen and more on your words, so that you are speaking WITH the audience, not merely describing whatever information you’ve put in your slides. It is clear to me that Michael bay did not really prepare for his presentation. His plan was to rely on the teleprompter. So when that went on the fritz, he was lost. He even said, “I’ll try to wing it.” But clearly he didn’t prepare enough to be able to do so.


Anticipate the worst.

In my preparation, I include pauses where I anticipate a question from the audience. I think about what questions the audience might have and prepare my answers. I think about what questions I might pose to them to keep the conversation going. You also have to anticipate computer malfunction, disruptions from the audience (cellphones going off), power outages, etc. The more interruptions you can anticipate, the more you will be prepared.  Clearly, Michael Bay didn’t anticipate technical difficulties. Had he anticipated this and prepared his speech for it, he wouldn’t have walked off the stage.


Practice spontaneity.

This sounds a little strange, but you can actually do this. As part of your preparation, you should visualize yourself in the room, on the stage with double the audience you anticipate will be there. In your visualization, throw yourself some curveballs and practice your reaction. Imagine a heckler. Imagine your sound cuts out.  Imagine the teleprompter shuts off just seconds into your speech. While this is a bit like anticipation, practicing spontaneity is practicing your reaction. If you practice spontaneity, you will not have the deer-in-the-headlights moment that Michael Bay did.


My own Michael Bay moment.

In a presentation I made for PCMA in 2012, I was asked to put the powerpoint on a clip so they could use their computer, already hooked up and ready to go. I prefer using my Mac, but I wanted to be cooperative and provided the USB clip. Sure enough, about half way through my presentation, their computer crashed. I had a good laugh with the audience when I said, “Great! That’s my cue for the entertainment portion of the program.” I then did a mock tap dance while I sang, “Let Me Entertain You.”  I then explained that my Mac would never leave me high and dry in a presentation (more humor and a chuckle from the audience) and that I needed help (being honest, humble and human).  Two of the audience members came to my rescue and while they were getting the powerpoint back up, I was able to stay on point and continue to deliver my content. And the audience stayed with me. Was I embarrassed? Of course! My cheeks felt hot and I felt tremendous pressure to recover. But I had prepared well for my presentation, I anticipated glitches, and I practiced spontaneity. Many remarked that they were impressed with how I handled the situation because they expected a Michael Bay meltdown and instead got a Shanna Bright show. 😉  I wowed them.


I absolutely get that speaking in front of large audiences is a frightening experience. But preparation, anticipation and spontaneity are your tools for delivering a successful speech and one that engages and involves your audience. You are not a professor who is giving a lecture, you are a professional who is speaking WITH your audience. Rehearsing your conversation will help you navigate the talking points and deliver a more personal presentation. With that, you can completely avoid the on-stage nightmare that Michael Bay lived out in front of all of us.


Here is the video on the off-chance you have not yet seen it:


LinkedIn Updates

LinkedIn has made several upgrades lately. Have you noticed? Not only has LinkedIn changed the total design and function of the website, but they have been adding more features over the past few months in order to make the site more interactive.  Here’s a few of the big updates to note:

LinkedIn Today

When you land on the page, you’ll automatically see the news feed. This is similar to your Facebook Timeline or Twitter feed. You’ll see the header above the feed called “LinkedIn Today” which entices you to click on various news pieces and share articles with your connections. This is so that we can enjoy a more interesting feed than Sally Smith is now connected to Joe Jones. 

Once you click “LinkedIn Today” you’ll be taken to a magazine layout of news articles for your perusal. World news and business articles await your discovery. It’s a great resource to share on LinkedIn and your other social sites, too.


You’ll notice that you can now “follow” business and thought leaders who write articles just for the LinkedIn audience. It’s tough to get directly to the list, though. There is no ability to click from the menu. There is no section on the sidebar. I think I discovered this feature because it showed up in my news feed. I went to the LinkedIn Help Page and found this comment:

Visit http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/whoToFollow to see the initial list of thought leaders who can be followed. Currently, only a small, hand-picked set of thought leaders can be followed from their LinkedIn profiles.

Not so user-friendly, but once you do land on this main page, you are treated to a wonderful list of influencers.

Follow the people you want to have show up in your news feed or just browse through the articles on offer. Underneath the header, you can click on the word “Following” to manage who you already follow.  I’m not quite sure why LinkedIn would make it so difficult to get to this page. Great feature, but not completely thought out.



One of the features recently added was “Skills.”  LinkedIn did this to assist college graduates who perhaps don’t yet have the work experience to fill out a resume. In addition, they now allow you to “Endorse” those skills for any of your connections. Have you noticed that when you view a profile, this box appears to encourage you to endorse specific skills?


This is a nice feature which somewhat replaces “Recommendations.”  Previously, you had to ask for people to recommend you, and it was a letter your contact had to write on your behalf. That feature is still available, but now they can go into your profile and just click on the skills they want to endorse. This saves time and is very user-friendly. It also gives greater opportunity for your contacts to endorse you without a request.

Make sure you take the time to add skills to your profile. This will help you get found when hiring managers are doing searches. On top of that, take a moment to go through your contacts and endorse their skills. Perhaps you are working on a project with someone … give them a boost on LinkedIn. If you get off the phone with a business contact, head to LinkedIn and endorse some of their skills. In order to play nice on LinkedIn, it’s a good idea to take a look at who has endorsed some of your skills and then go onto their profile and endorse them right back. Good professional karma.

New Profile

Finally, LinkedIn is rolling out new profile designs. I’ve requested mine, but have not yet received the upgrade. So stay tuned for more information soon.


I would love to hear what features you are enjoying most on the re-vamped LinkedIn. Are these new features making the site easier to use? Are there certain features that are helping you do business better or increasing your contact base? Please share with me. I’m happy to provide updates on my blog or in next month’s newsletter.

Forget About Grandma

angry grandma

“Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to hear.”  This is often a comment made when coaches are interviewed in an article about sports and social media. And it is often the only bit of advice given to student-athletes in an effort to help them communicate more effectively online.

This advice, with all of its good intentions, is a bit misguided. Grandma’s opinion of your online behavior doesn’t matter much at all. Grandma knows you all too well, loves you no matter what and will most likely forgive you for any missteps.  Everyone else online may not be so understanding.

The things you say and do online are more often reviewed by admissions officers at your favorite university, by the coach whose team you want to play for and by the prospective employer who will want to make sure you are an asset and not a liability.

Social media education can be so much more than just “how to craft the perfect tweet” or “here’s how to manage your facebook settings.”  While everyone is more than entitled to have fun and be social, it is also wise to come to the table with a game plan. Take a pause before every post. Is it necessary? Does it serve a good purpose? Will that post help you or hurt you?  What light do your words and images paint you in? Is that really YOU?

Good communication skills are teachable and can be honed to be strategic. So let’s forget about our sweet little granny and worry more about what our audience will learn from that photo, that comment, that perfectly crafted tweet. It’s not only student-athletes who live 140 characters from disaster.

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