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Movie director Michael Bay was to deliver a keynote address for Samsung at the Consumer Electronics Show, detailed HERE. When the teleprompter stopped working, he fumbled, and then made a quick and awkward exit. Although he could not control the technology, Mr. Bay could have controlled how he handled the debacle. Had he prepared effectively, he may not have opted to walk off stage while so many were watching. Bay’s embarrassment offers us yet another opportunity to talk about preparing for a presentation. We have written about the topic a number of times herehere and here. The harsh reality is that as much as we prepare for anything, stuff happens to knock us off balance. It is impossible to plan for every situation, but it’s important to be prepared for something to go wrong, especially in front of a crowd, with camera phones, and instant access to the Internet.

As we work with executives who are getting ready for a keynote, media interview or a big sales presentation, we constantly reinforce the importance of preparing and rehearing effectively. While in front of an audience, large or small, any number of things can happen to distract us: a failed piece of equipment, drinks spilled on an audience member, a loud noise, a joke falling flat… the list goes on.

What to do? Organize your thoughts on paper in a simple outline. Start with three or four basic points and then provide the substance below those points. And then, read this content out loud and work out the linguistic kinks. Now, repeat these points over again until you know them. These basic steps are often overlooked because most people think that they can wing it. Clearly, not everyone can do this.

Why go through this exercise? Because if you have said something aloud over and over again, it’s much easier to get back on track when the teleprompter breaks or something else interrupts you. Your audience wants you to succeed. Bouncing back from a technology blow up is easier than batting away the criticism and mockery of walking off stage.

Melissa F Daly has 20 years of financial communications experience, with a special focus on key message development and media relations around critical issues. Melissa formed MFD Communications after spending three years at Goldman Sachs as Vice President, Corporate Communications. Prior to that, she was a Director at Brunswick Group, a London-based financial and business communications firm. There, she spearheaded its financial services business in the US, managing communications for hedge fund, private equity, insurance and traditional asset management firms. Melissa also worked at Fred Alger Management, The Hartford and Lipper in communications and media relations roles and has frequently appeared on CNBC and CNN as an industry commentator. Her experience spans across business sectors and continents.