The planners of the 2015 National Speaker’s Association Influence conference had every reason to believe he was up to the challenge. After all “Sam” had just received the coveted CSP (certified speaking professional) certification (proving he was a seasoned speaking master). But as Sam took the stage in front of 1700 of his speaking peers for his five minutes of NSA fame, he went blank. After a few stumbles and restarts, he uttered the words that drew an audible gasp from the supportive crowd, “I knew this would happen.”
He’d just committed professional speaking sin #37 “When you screw up, for God’s sake don’t draw attention to it and make it worse. Keep going.” We all were watching our worst speaking nightmare play out before our eyes. Nothing worse than bombing in front of your professional community.
By Tuesday morning so much was going on, our brains were full, and “Sam’s” five minutes of angst had faded for most of us. What happened next sent tears down my face (I looked around it… wasn’t just me).
The music blared and large screens spread the message, “Welcome to Redemption Island.” The screens then REPLAYED that horrible moment where “Sam” had let his inside voice out, “I knew this would happen.” The MC announced, and “We are here to give him another shot.”
The crowd went wild.
He gave the speech. Flawlessly. He ended with thanking his peer who had encouraged him to give it another go, in fact he said “I love you.” (There’s nothing more powerful at work than peers who truly love you-with a little “l” and no sex.)
The Power of a Second Chance
First some context.
In yesterday’s keynote, Mel Robbins described the NSA like this “It’s like you’re going camping by yourself and stumble upon a huge party down by the river with all kinds of people just like you who invite you to come play” (I may be paraphrasing, but that’s close… please don’t quote me, quoting her). So what’s surprising is not that they got to this answer, but how few other organizations I’ve been a part of would have handled it this way.
Why it worked.
1. No one judged
Okay, okay. Who knows, there might have been someone. But I watched the hush come over the crowd like a wave at a large stadium. I’d be willing to bet my next keynote fee that 98% were in his court. I’d venture to guess there were at least 100 prayers lifted up in his direction. There was no scolding. No, “We trusted you with a coveted spot” speeches. No, “Don’t ever do that again pep talks.” Or stories of “a long recovery.” It was more of “Well, that happened. It sucked. Let’s figure out how to move on.”
2. They let him try again.
Risky. If he had blown it again, it would have been a nightmare for him, and sent questions about the certification process. The meeting planners knew the risk. They went there anyway.
3. He was willing to.
It would have been easier to have a few drinks, call his wife, and obsess over this for the next two decades. He took the risk of getting back on the stage, and trying again.
4. He worked hard.
I don’t know how many times he practiced, but I’d be willing to bet my NEXT keynote fee, that he left nothing to chance. A humbling experience makes us stronger.
5. They acknowledged success.
A standing ovation.
What could have devastated his confidence, became a career highlight. I’ll bet somehow the moment of 1700 peers saying “I understand” will be in his “best of” highlights reel.
Failure feels like an island. Can you imagine what would happen if we started with finding opportunities for redemption?
There’s awesome power in winning well.
Let it be so. #winningwell