All professional speakers have made mistakes. I certainly have made my share of them. It’s part of the learning process of becoming a good speaker. But one thing that has saved me time and time again through computer glitches and more is improv. Michael Bay proved at the Consumer Electronics Show that speakers should learn improv.

One of the very first speaking jobs I had was for a large educational conference. Everything was great until I happened to glance at the back of the room and saw the CEO of the company standing there staring at me. Suddenly, for some reason, I forgot the name of the company that hired me. It was probably a ten second pause, but for that moment, it seemed like an eternity.

Using my improv background, I instinctively grabbed a teddy bear that was sitting on the table, which happened to have the name of the company on it. Phew! Saved by the bear! I started improvising in the bear’s voice and after getting a laugh from the audience and the CEO, the faux pas was quickly brushed off.

Director Michael Bay’s “meltdown” at the CES could have benefitted from a little improv training. First of all I would have told him that a keynote speaker should never rely on a teleprompter. Just like a speaker should never rely completely on a power point presentation. Technology, as great as it is, is not perfect. And speakers, more than anyone, know about Murphy’s Law. If you’ve been a speaker for any length of time, you’ve had some kind of technology screw up happen to you.

But if he had known his topic inside and out, and also had some improv background, he would have been able to riff on the spot, even making a joke out of a technology failure at a consumer electronics show. This is proof of Murphy’s Law in action.


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