I had taken a stand-up comedy class and for the last one, you had to perform at open mic night at a local club.

I thought there might be three people in the audience and freaked out when I saw there were more than 300 people in the audience. I was terrified.

It was a tough crowd and you only had five minutes to do your bit and then if you went over, you got the blue light—the hook. And I was sure I would be humiliated.

This experience, however, taught me some powerful lessons about making presentations.

  1. Be clear about what you want to say. I didn’t have a rigid script but I did have three concepts, an opening line, and a punchline for each.  So, as I started to tell the stories that were the heart of my routine, I was watching the room, feeling the energy, and was able to pivot when I could see something wasn’t working and came up with other things on the fly.
  2. Don’t be your own worst enemy.  The negative talk in my head about failure nearly did me in.  Fortunately, some friends of mine were there and before I went on kept telling me “you got this,” and I started to say it myself and it gave me confidence.  You have to believe that what you are saying is worth others listening to.
  3. Be Flexible. Some of my classmates had memorized scripts and when jokes weren’t working, they just kept going.  They couldn’t adapt or adjust.  They got booed and they got the blue light.

Not only did I not bomb but I was asked to come back.  I didn’t but I did learn some valuable lessons about presentations which I hope you find useful.

What’s your biggest presentation nightmare and how did you deal with it?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.