7 Lessons Learned (Because I Failed)

Posted by on Jun 8, 2014 | 0 comments

Recently I’ve been on a speaking binge. I’m not sure why the flurry of activity, but within the past few months I’ve received invitations to speak at several national, state and local conferences and to a variety of nonprofit organizations.  I’ve enjoyed each opportunity to share my thoughts and meet new friends. I’ve been especially grateful for the excellent references and reviews I’ve consistently received from the groups I’ve been speaking to. It’s been a confidence-inspiring whirlwind of activity.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday I failed.  It was a comedy of errors from beginning to end, but it wasn’t really funny.

My presentation fell flat. It was disjointed and probably confusing to the audience. It’s a wonder they didn’t ask me what I was talking about.  Following the presentation, I couldn’t remember anything I said.

This experience has taught me seven important lessons to remember if you find yourself speaking to a group:

  1. Arrive 30 minutes early.
  2. Preparation cannot be underestimated.
  3. Know your venue.
  4. Never assume.
  5. Anticipate what might go wrong.
  6. Punting is OK.
  7. Say “No” When Your Gut Tells You To
  8. Sleep the night before, no matter what.
I learned these seven important lessons the hard way. I failed on every one of them. Considering my speaking experience, there was and is no excuse for the comedy of errors, and more importantly, that I didn’t rebound well once they happened.
I learned these seven important lessons because I made these seven critical mistakes (and I knew better!):
  1. I arrived early, but not as early as I should have. A few extra minutes would have given me time to gather my thoughts, reorganize my notes and give a logical presentation.
  2. My preparation time was cut short. I managed a lot of non-essential tasks during the week prior to yesterday’s event: I should have spent that “free time” fine tuning my presentation and visiting the venue.
  3. I had not visited the venue prior to speaking: knowing the room set up helps prepare you to stand in front of your audience.
  4. I assumed there would be a podium – there was not. This was a first, but it’s now a question I will always ask: “Is there a podium?”
  5. And although I had asked for a projector and screen, I had not anticipated a lack of connection chords, the inability to connect to my MacBookPro, and I most certainly did not anticipate the sudden SNAP of the screen as it tore from the frame and flopped to the floor just before my presentation. I mean, who would EVER anticipate that? (The organizers actually tried to flop the screen over the top of the screen’s frame and for a few minutes my PowerPoint was beamed onto the flopping, buckled screen until my OCD took over and I asked them to turn it off).
  6. My presentation was tightly linked to the PowerPoint slides, and I attempted to give the same presentation without the slides…not smart. What I should have done was reorganized in my mind and hit the high points unscripted and without the crutch of slides. I probably could have done that if I had been better prepared.
  7. This was a very short notice request by someone I know and respect. I said “yes” when my gut was telling me to say “no”. I knew my time was tight and preparation would be tough.
  8. I only had 3 hours sleep the night before the presentation. I was exhausted, which undoubtedly added to my inability to rebound as I normally can.
Failure isn’t fun under any circumstances, but if we can learn from our mistakes, failure can become a springboard to greater success in the future. Remember the saying: When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I resembled that remark yesterday.

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