Reginald Hudlin is unique in the entertainment business because of his success as a writer, producer, director and executive. Hudlin is a pioneer of the modern black film movement, creating movies like HOUSE PARTY, BOOMERANG and BEBE’S KIDS, which are some of the most profitable and influential films of his generation. He is the executive producer and writer of the upcoming BLACK PANTHER animated series starring Djimon Hounsou, and was executive producer of THE BOONDOCKS. Hudlin also directed the pilot of the hit series EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS and was a producer and director of THE BERNIE MAC SHOW.
During his more than three year tenure as the first President of Entertainment for Black Entertainment Television, Hudlin created 17 of the top 20 rated shows in the history of the network. Those hits include the award-winning KEYSHIA COLE: THE WAY IT IS; the critical and commercial hit AMERICAN GANGSTER; and SOMEBODIES, the network’s first scripted series, which was called one of the five best new shows of the 2008 fall season by USA TODAY and the LOS ANGELES TIMES.
Under Hudlin’s stewardship, BET had its first ever telethon, which supported Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. He created the BET HIP HOP AWARDS and the BET HONORS – two successful network franchises. He created a profitable home entertainment division for the network and completely rebuilt the news division, which went on to win 13 awards in two years.
A lifetime comic book reader with over 50,000 books in his collection, one of Reginald’s dreams came true four years ago when be became the full time writer for BLACK PANTHER comic book series for Marvel Comics. He continued writing the series while working as an executive for BET, turning in a 22 page monthly book for over three years. BLACK PANTHER is the most successful black super hero series ever, which led to Hudlin writing an award winning run of SPIDER MAN, Marvel’s flagship character.
Hudlin co-authored his first book BIRTH OF A NATION in July 2004. BIRTH is a comic novel about Hudlin’s hometown of East St. Louis seceding from the United States. The Random House publication received glowing reviews in Time, Entertainment Weekly and Publisher’s Weekly, among others.
ML: Who helped inspire you early in life when it comes to presenting or public speaking?
REGINALD: My dad would talk about how his grandmother would volunteer him for every opportunity for public speaking. He would recite poems at social gathers and do readings at church. He said the more you do it, the better you get at it. That made sense to me.
ML: Does anything make you nervous?
REGGIE: Lack of preparation. Is this the right speech for this audience? Is it too long? Most importantly, do I have a strong ending?
ML: Can you recall a breakthrough moment for you when it comes to presenting?
REGGIE: I’ve always done loosely prepared speeches, even when I when I spoke in front of the entire class at my high school graduation. I have always been good at off the top of the dome free styling. But recently I started writing my entire speech out, and practicing it with Teleprompters. I got much better.
ML: What’s the biggest group you ever did a presentation or speech in front of?
REGGIE: When I was a network president, I would present all the new shows for the year to a packed house at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. That presentation was also being broadcast to Chicago, Detroit, and Los Angeles.
ML: What’s your favorite format for talking to a group?
REGGIE: I like power point displays. Why not add visuals, maybe music or clips to your presentation? Anything that keeps people focused. I usually don’t have the time, but it’s nice when I do.
ML: Think of all the meetings you have ever been in, in your whole life, and regardless of who ran them. Overall, what would you say is the efficiency of those meetings? If you say 100%, that means you think every minute of every meeting brought us to nirvana as a society. 0% means completely inefficient. What would you say?
REGGIE: I’d say half my meetings sucked. The other half were useful. The worst meetings I’ve ever had were in corporate settings. Because the goal wasn’t to get anything done, it was to ambush and sabotage others. Meetings were set with no known agenda, so no one could prepare in advance. A properly functioning meeting means everyone knows what you’re talking about, there a time limit to the meeting, and ideally there is some one on one conversation beforehand so the meeting goes smoothly. My favorite meetings have been casual conversations…in parking lots, at dinners, etc… where real information is revealed, or ideas sparked. Usually the other meetings are in support of that initial spark.
ML: Who do you admire as a communicator, but whom you have never met?
REGGIE: I’ve briefly met President Obama several times, but I think he still counts. He expresses complex ideas in plain English. He always seems comfortable in his skin. That’s a rare talent that I try to emulate.
ML: Have you had a speaking nightmare where things didn’t go well that you would share?
REGGIE: I had to do an impromptu speech at a nightclub hosting hip hop concert. My energy, tone and poise were all wrong for that event. I needed to adapt to the audience and setting and didn’t. Fail.
ML: Do you have a speaking dream?
REGGIE: I’d like to do lecture tours one day. I just can’t carve out the time to book them. But one day I will.
ML: What are your pet peeves when it comes to speaking?
REGGIE: I want the audience there. I want good promotion if I’m asked to speak; not a smattering of people trickling in.
ML: Do you have any tips for people who are trying to improve their presentations?
REGGIE: Practice. Have friends listen and give comments.
ML: Do you have any tips for people trying to make meetings better?
REGGIE: Clear topic communicated beforehand. Make sure it’s not something that could be handled in some other medium – one on one calls, email, etc. Set a time limit on the meeting. Set clear goals at the end of the meeting.