When Humor Mis-Fires (Part Two)

By Guest Author:  Darren LaCroix

Have you ever said something really stupid in the middle of giving a great presentation?

Guilty!

That’s exactly what I did while speaking at a District Conference in Columbus, Ohio.

I relearned a valuable lesson. Before I tell you what I said, it’s crucial you understand the background of why I said it.

First, who is Molly? Molly French and her husband Jamey are fellow Toastmasters who had a life-altering experience this year. At the end of February, Molly (a 39-year-old teacher) had a sore throat and cold-like symptoms. It was treated like a viral infection.

Three days later, with difficulty breathing, Molly was hospitalized. She spent nearly two months in the intensive care/trauma burn unit. Molly was suffering from sepsis, a severe illness caused by an infection of the blood stream. Her legs, damaged from the infection, were amputated.

Ouch.

Molly’s amazing attitude throughout this ordeal helped her to be in an amazing 5% who actually recover from this illness. Hardly anyone has ever recovered this quickly. Her husband Jamey took most of the year off from his business to be at her side. (His dedication to her is amazing!)

Jamey got in touch with me prior to the conference and asked if he could “pick my brain” about how to get their inspiring story out to more people. I was happy do whatever I could. They were both incredibly appreciative for the insight I gave them. We discussed many ideas that they never would’ve even thought about, and pin-pointed certain parts of her story that must be told.

At the conference, I spent as much time as I could with Molly and Jamey. The more I learned about them and their story, the more inspired I was. I was blown away–I knew I had to help!

Molly has an amazing sense of humor, too. We laughed…and we even cried a bit. (If you want to hear more about them, visit their blog.

During my How to Own the Stage “live coaching” workshop, I came up with a really great idea! With Jamey giving up his business, I knew money had been tight, so I decided to donate one of our DVD sets to them. They wanted so much to help others with their story, and I thought Own The Stage could help them do that. After I mentioned their story and gave them one of the programs from the stage, they broke into tears. It was a powerful moment. Everything was perfect in my presentation…up until this point.

Knowing Molly’s amazing attitude, sense of humor, and the bond that we had created over the previous 24 hours, I followed it up with the line: “I knew I had to give the Own The Stage 10 DVD Set to Molly and Jamey. I really want to help them get their story to the people who need it…and give them a leg-up.”

Molly laughed.

The rest of the audience didn’t.

I instantly realized that the audience didn’t understand the closeness between us. They also didn’t know that Molly appreciated the humor. At that point, I completely lost them.

But it wasn’t their fault. It was mine. I should have known better.

Have you ever said something stupid in your presentation?  Wow! As soon as the audience reacted, I knew I had messed up! I explained the background behind my comment, and then moved on.

Too many speakers–after making a major mistake like this–continue to beat themselves up for days. For me, it was an important reminder lesson. I know better. Either way, I let it go.

We will all continue to make mistakes for as long as we’re speaking. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. I NEVER want to be perfect. I want to be “present” and in-the-moment. When you do this, the connection with your audience can be magical, and it will also (on occasion) lead to mistakes. If your heart is in the right place, the audience will forgive you. If they do, why don’t you?

Darren LaCroix is a terrific speaker, an excellent disc-golf player, and a great friend.  You’ll enjoy his newsletter Stage Time and his Blog, In Between Stage Time.  Visit Darren’s web site and check out his Blog.