Recovering From an Onstage Flop

By Jane Atkinson

Twice in the past week I’ve had clients come to me and say they thought their presentation went smashingly well, but then the feedback came….

and they were wrong.

The audience did not love their performance. In fact, some people didn’t even like it a little bit. Yikes!

What would you do if you had a flop? Would you give up or would you get back on the horse?

I suspect most of you have experienced this before. And every one of you can relate to feeling everything from uncomfortable to downright sick to your stomach when things don’t go as planned. When there’s a high fee on the line, it becomes even more difficult.

I had a flop this past year.

I let some issues with the meeting room and the technology really knock me off my game. I was trying out a new opening that leaned heavily on visuals and the PowerPoint could not be seen, so I had to work extra hard to win the audience back. It was a humbling experience, but one that still stings.

So, this led me to wonder, do you have a formula for overcoming a flop?

Here are a few ideas that you can keep in your back pocket to use in time of need:

1. You can’t read minds.

You may walk away from the presentation thinking it was the worst performance of your life, only to find out that it went well. Until you have concrete evidence, you may not actually know what an audience has experienced.

I remember speaking legend Rosita Perez saying that a woman in the front row was glaring at her which made her think her presentation was going very badly. Later on, the woman told her that she reminded her of someone she didn’t like. The look on the woman’s face had nothing to do with Rosita at all!

Make sure that your experience is based in reality. Sometimes we hear later that the audience just received bad news at work or something else challenging.  Or, you find out that they are a “very tough audience” and that it actually went better than you thought it did. Ask the person that hired you to tell you the truth.

I’m not one to whitewash a bad situation, so if it did go poorly, let’s be clear about what didn’t work, learn from it, and move forward.

2. Keep your eye on the prize.

You want to be a professional speaker and taking your lumps is a part of the journey. I’ll bet if you go to Influence ’18 this summer in Dallas, and you asked people if they have ever had flops, they would tell you they have.  At least the honest ones would, LOL.

When you look back at your rough presentation, or a string of them as some of my clients have experienced, you’ll see that this was just a blip on your life’s path. This too shall pass. Keep remembering the business and lifestyle you are trying to create for yourself, make the changes needed, and plow ahead.

3. Make it right if needed.

When big dollars are on the line and things don’t go as planned, you might ask the client how they felt about it and come to an agreement together on how to make it right. Perhaps there’s a “do over” or something you can offer them that will make it better or maybe just a straight up full or partial refund. If someone has paid tens of thousands of dollars and you didn’t perform, that might feel like the right thing to do.

4. Get back on the horse quickly.

Not wallowing in your set back is going to be important. Don’t wait too long to get back out and speak. Your goal is to rebuild your confidence quickly. It may take only one presentation and you’ll feel like “you’re back!” Or it might take one or two more than that. Be patient with yourself and really focus on what you bring to the table and your strengths.

Hopefully these 4 ideas will help you move through a setback. And for those of you who look at the evaluations and ignore the 98% good ones and give laser focus to the 2% who will never like you, let it go! You will never please 100% of the people and that is okay!!!