Seven Things All Marketers Should Learn from Michael Bay’s CES Teleprompter Miscue

Seven Things All Marketers Should Learn from Michael Bay’s CES Teleprompter Miscue


If you missed the story, and few in the tech industry did, Michael Bay experienced a technology and preparation glitch at Samsung’s CES 4K curved television announcement. It needn’t have gone the way it did. Here are seven simple rules that can help marketers avoid live celebrity spokesperson meltdowns. Those celebrity spokespeople would do well to read these themselves to cover their own star-studded behinds.

  1. Make sure all speakers know what they are talking about. This is the basic, fundamental rule that is so often forgotten. People need teleprompters because they don’t have enough knowledge and experience with a product or idea to represent it without words being fed to them. Teleprompters are fine for newscasters being given updates in near realtime—words that they simply couldn’t rehearse. Teleprompters are also what gives the surreal, often false cadence to marketers and politicians. People simply don’t sound the same when reading. People who know their stuff may hum and hah a bit, but they sound authentic. People who know what they are talking about can also adapt to different situations, from unexpected questions to technology hiccups.
  2. Rehearse with and without the teleprompter. If you must use a teleprompter, rehearse. Also rehearse without a teleprompter, but with script reading and memorization—rehearse key messages and ideas in different ways so that people get comfortable talking “off-the-cuff.”
  3. If your speaker can’t rehearse, then get another speaker. Expensive speakers should be willing to give time to learn about the product, and at minimum, rehearse. If they are above all that, then consider getting someone more willing to put in the time to learn enough that they can keep the show going if something unexpected occurs.
  4. Coach your speaker on what to do if things go wrong. Things don’t always go wrong, but they do often go wrong, so don’t have anybody just running around saying, “it’s going to be OK.” The reassurance doesn’t help if something goes wrong, and that person isn’t adding any value. Rather, redirect comfort givers to sit down with the speakers and work through various scenarios so if they have to wing it, they can. That’s the best way to ensure that things will, indeed, be OK.
  5. Make sure a slide or visual cue is around that can help the speaker wing it. Either plan for, or be able to flip to, a slide that includes a prompt or message that the speaker can play against. Don’t put up a bullet chart–the last thing you want is a robotic reading that will put people to sleep.  If the spokesperson has rehearsed with a conceptual graphic that evokes the right ideas, then have that graphic at the ready to given them something to mentally hold on to.
  6. Create spectacles that are as well-design for the participants and for the attendees. Sometimes spectacles are necessary at big events to differentiate one announcement from another. But that doesn’t mean the spectacle has to be difficult for the participants. Too often marketers plan for the outcome, not for the experience of the participants. And if you are the speaker, and you don’t feel the preparation is adequate, then say something…your reputation is as tied to event as it is for those who hired you. Work together to co-create a well-designed event and everybody will come out looking good.
  7. Always test the technology. Presenters and organizers too often think that standard technology will work because it’s standard technology. Every configuration creates unique possibilities for errors and mishaps. Test configurations with actual devices and content to ensure that they work, then lock them down.

Smaller events would do well to follow these rules, but they can’t because the overhead is just too high, and besides, most small events don’t have a Michael Bay on stage.  Smaller events set lower expectations and often want more interaction with the audience. Their quaintness can be endearing. But big events need to deliver on their promises, especially when high profile people are involved—and that means making an investment in solid preparation and participant experience design,  along with décor and talent.

Daniel W. Rasmus

Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.

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