Unfortunately, I don't have a magic potion that removes the pain of a failed presentation. I can tell you that failure is always painful and it doesn't get any easier. It doesn't matter if you fail in a small room with four people in the audience or in a room full of people. Failure hurts. Every single time. Period. If you let it, failure can be debilitating.
When I present, my goal is to make a connection. I reach out to the audience and look for positive feedback. Are they connecting with my message? Are they responding? Laughing? Snoozing? Are they bored? (That is my worst nightmare. Please, God let them be anything BUT bored.) It used to be that one person standing up and leaving the room would devastate me. I would replay the message in my head and try to figure out where I had gone wrong. I was obsessive about the negative feedback. And then, I started paying attention as an audience member. I have a hard time sitting still for long periods of time. Different people need to get up and move. People get thirsty. Nature calls. Your child calls. Occasionally, your audience members will just need to leave the room. It's not always about the speaker or the message.
In order to overcome my fear of failure, I had to overcome my own arrogant view. Do I really think I have power over every single thing that happens in a room? Am I the all powerful all knowing Geni? Can I really control people's biological needs and silence their cellphones with my message? The answer is no. I'm human and so are they.
Last week I gave three separate presentations - I taught an 8 hour training class on finance to tasting room professionals, I spent 2 hours teaching Junior Achievement classes to high school students, and then I taught concepts to winery owners for a couple of hours. Of the three, which one do you think was the most terrifying?
High school students scare me to death. As I am teaching, I am using all of my energy to try and make a connection. But some days, I fail. I can't connect. Maybe that teenager had a bad morning, or a sleepless night, or a fight with his Mom. Maybe he's hungry or worried about something. No matter what I do, I won't be able to reach that teenager that day.
I have to be okay with trusting myself to reach one person in that classroom. I have to aim for the stars every time, but I also have to be satisfied with making a connection with one person. I have to believe that in every gathering, there is at least one person who needs to hear what I have to say. That is what keeps me going. It helps me overcome the fear of failing so I can get back up on that stage the next time and once again risk making a fool of myself.