Posted on December 16, 2010. Filed under: storytelling | Tags: , , , , |

So, I bombed.  At a recent event.  I won’t mention names, I had to give a presentation and well, it sucked.  I know, I know, everyone has had this happen, right?  Well, I never have.  Really.  Like, even in high school, when I was a nerd, I did good presentations – and got a good audience response.  I have never bombed.  I DON’T BOMB.  Except, I did.

Okay, so, here’s what happened.  First of all, my presentation was weird.  It was half story, half facts and figures.  It was fantastic.  I mean, the writing was great.  Flawless even.  Would I exaggerate?  But memorizing it was hard.  We’re talking, losing my voice for days from all the repetition and it still not sticking.  But, I finally got it down – the day before the event.  Well, the night before the event.  I had it.  I could do the whole thing from memory.  Mostly.

The day of the event, I got to the location only to find that:

1. There was no stage – we were all in folding chairs on the same level

2. There was not going to be any dimming of the lights – so all the smiling faces in the audience half a foot away from me would be very, very visible

3.  There was no heat and it was about 30 degrees in the building

4.  Due to some technical difficulties, we started an hour early

5.  80% of the audience were other speakers, waiting their turn

So, I take the stage, feeling not at all ready.  I had planned on using that extra hour to refresh my memory.  I get the microphone, turn it on, and start.

My opening paragraph was awesome.  I mean, it was written to just reel ’em in, you know?  Like, really hook ’em!  So I belt it out, get to the last line, and smile.  You gotta smile.  But when I look at the faces staring back at me, well, they’re just staring back at me, like, um, like I was trying to teach them quantum physics.

I push on.  Next paragraph.  This one ends with an actual joke.  Ba dump bump!  But no.  Not even a slight smile from any of the 30 or so blank faces staring back at me.  I swear one girl had started to drool.  I started to sweat, despite the chill in the air.

I pushed on.  A few paragraphs later and it was really wearing on me.  I fumbled a little, but recovered the ball.  It didn’t matter.  No one noticed.  A lot of people were studying the floor.  A few paragraphs later and I froze.  I just kept thinking,” these people hate me,” and then, suddenly, I couldn’t remember my next line or even what I had just said.

I started scrambling.  I mumbled something about something that sounded like maybe it was somewhere near what I was talking about.  People started to look up, to see if I had finished.  Other people started to examine their nails, in absolute boredom.  I just started saying stuff to fill the air.  Making chit chat about something kind of like what my speech was about, and then I hit on my next line.  I picked it up again and started to run with it.  I only had a couple more paragraphs to go and I ran all the way through to the end.

It wasn’t until after taking in the lackluster applause and reclaiming my seat that I realized I had dropped a paragraph and a few key lines, but at least it was over.  I honestly didn’t think anyone cared or noticed.  Only me.

It really bothered me.  I couldn’t sleep that night.  I felt crappy for the next few days.  I felt like I had put on a bad show.  Like I had failed.  I felt embarrassed, even if no one had paid attention.  I don’t like it when they don’t like me.

The funny thing is, a few days later, the event’s organizer emailed me and said, “A few people have told me they found your presentation to be the most thoughtful and well-prepared!  It left quite an impression!”  I never saw that coming – but at least now I can pretend I still have a perfect record.


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