What To Do When You Miss the Mark While On Stage

felicia slattery, what to do when you flop on stageI’m taking a major risk here.

As a professional speaker, you’re not supposed to tell people if you’ve had an off day. Everything is supposed to be all fabulous all the time.

But that’s just not reality. Some days, for a variety of reasons, you’re just not as “on” as you’d like to be.

Well, I had my own off day last weekend at the Niche Affiliate Marketing Seminar in Atlanta in front of a room full of more than 250 people.

However, the good news – and there is a lot really – is that as a speaker trainer, I know what I did wrong. Ha – I pretty much broke almost all my own rules. So I thought I’d share with you what I did wrong that led to me feeling a bit flat on stage and what amazing things happened next.

1. Last Minute Changes: My keynote speech was scheduled for Saturday night. The event itself began Friday morning and went through Sunday evening with a LOT of learning and ah-ha moments for me in between. Most of my ah-ha moments came during the Saturday sessions while listening to veteran online marketer, Terry Dean talk about online conversions for 6 hours. (Amazing stuff!) Because I was excited about what I learned I tried to add some of my new ideas to my speech. On the fly. That didn’t work.
What to do instead: Stick with your plan every time. Make changes going forward. Not in the moment.

2. Didn’t Practice: I’ll admit it. I got over-confident and didn’t practice my speech well enough ahead of time. I speak to roaring standing ovations all the time. I’ve been doing this speaking thing my whole life. What I forgot is to be great, you’ve got to practice. The best athletes in the world don’t sit back on their laurels and expect to be in top form and win championships or gold medals. Duh.
What to do instead: Obviously – practice. Every bit, every joke, every story… practice it all in pieces and as a whole. A lot.

3. Powerpoint Problems: I don’t like to use Powerpoint when I deliver a signature speech. But Paul Evans who had the Friday night keynote slot (who totally rocked it by the way) used PPT. And all the other speakers were using PPT. I felt pressure to conform to the standards of the event. But even more than that, after seeing the way the room was configured, I decided it’d be best for the audience members in the way back of the room to have something visual to look at on the screens. The problem – I made my slides on the fly. I wrote a new speech that combined several of my past stories and info but needed a new PPT presentation to bring it all together. That I created on Saturday. Doh.
What to do instead: Stick with your plan, prepare everything including visuals ahead of time, and practice those so you can run them like a well-oiled machine.

4. I Got Thrown: I started my speech with an attention-getter stunt that usually gets me screaming laughs and thunderous applause. This particular audience pretty much sat there in stunned silence. It threw me and I never recovered, with most of my other planned bits getting polite laughter, but none of the rollicking good times kind of reactions I usually get. Yes, the audience was tired after 2 full days of sitting in workshops learning, but it’s MY job as the speaker to get them energized and excited. Because I felt ill-prepared and thrown, I know the audience subconsciously picked up on that too and it became a vicious cycle. Not fun.
What to do instead: Get centered before you speak. Know your plan. Know you are well-rehearsed. And know you are there in service of the people in the room. Then give them the best you’ve got every single time. No excuses.
After all that — here’s the amazing part: even though I thought I gave a pretty dismal performance and I am blessed enough who have honest friends who have seen me better agreed this wasn’t my best, I still got wonderful feedback from members of the audience.

You can see the thread on Facebook when I got down on myself with people piping in about being in the room and telling me my speech was wonderful. You’ll see the meeting planner, David Perdew sharing how he enjoyed it and that people were hanging on every word.

Finally, I even got one of the best compliments I’ve ever had in my entire life from audience member Bill Thomas who told me I reminded him of speaking legend Jim Rohn. (wow.)

The biggest lesson: be prepared and remember even on an off day, your message will still find its way to the people who need to hear it most. And practice.

My next speaking gig is at the end of September in Orlando for Bob The Teacher’s SIMPLE Video Velocity event. I’ve already started working on my speech and my slides for that one. I’ve got to redeem myself! I invite you to come see how I do.

So your turn to take a risk… when have you not followed your own advice and paid for it?

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8 thoughts on “What To Do When You Miss the Mark While On Stage

  1. Thank you Felicia for sharing! Nobody likes to fail, but that’s when we learn the most! We appreciate your humility and trusting us with your story for our growth!

    • Thanks Joe!
      Nothing liked being knocked down a few notches every once in a while — even if only in my own head! LOL

      And thank you for sharing the link on Twitter this morning, too 🙂

  2. Hi Felicia –
    I was in the audience as well and had never heard you speak before. I thought that you were fantastic. If that is an ‘off’ day I look forward to seeing you speak again when you are ‘on’ You were very inspirational and charismatic and piqued my interest enough for me to come out and read your blog.

    Best regards,

    • Hi Melissa,
      NAMS was such a wonderful event, wasn’t it? Thank you SO very much for your kind comments. I’m glad you enjoyed my presentation and decided to come check out my blog, too! I hope you’ll come back.

  3. Hi Felicia,

    As someone who was in that audience and had never heard you speak before, I thought you were wonderful! You did have me laughing, and even gave me goosebumps with your story. I liked your energy and your message. I would never have known what your speech “should” have been like if you hadn’t told me later that night. Maybe you weren’t as funny as YOU thought you should be, but you were just right to me.

    Thanks 🙂

  4. When I saw you tweet this, my first thought was to say, “What do you know about missing the mark onstage?” But you’re a pro and everyone has an off day at least once in their speaking career. I have. I had a few off days in my 20+ years in radio too. It’s tough when you have an sucky day at your cubicle job. It’s only magnified when you’re standing in front of hundreds or broadcasting live.

    So is the perception in your head.

    I’m not sure people always know when someone is having an bad day. Just as I’m sure there are people who think we aren’t “hitting it” when we’re having an awesome day.

    I appreciate your transparency, but I think you’re being a little hard on yourself. I thought your presentation was terrific and got people perked up after 2 days of workshops. You were funny, engaging and inspiring throughout and I only heard favorable comments!

    Rock on, Felicia!

    • Kurt–
      See?! You get where I’m coming from. In so many other visible fields — TV, movies, even online video — you can stop and edit. But when you do anything LIVE — like radio or stage work — you’re there naked and you’ve got to make it come together as best you can.

      Thank you for your kind comments! I really wasn’t looking for the sweet words… just needed to remind everyone to follow our own best advice sometimes! lol

      So great to meet you finally. In another state no less. 😉

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