Last night was one of those nights when I wonder why I ever took up this preaching thing. I was speaking at the church we are attending here in Denver. It was the fourth service of the day and the crowd was pretty small. (We could have all shared a bus to the airport.) Everyone looked a little tired and hungry, and it took all the energy I had to keep rolling. (If you speak you know what I’m talking about) The message was on miracles and the climax was a moving video testimony produced by my friends at Seacoast. In the previous three services the video had hit the mark, making the point of the sermon much better than I possibly could. All I had to do after the video was invite people bring their needs to God and let the Holy Spirit go to work.
So I’m finishing my fourth time through the message. My delivery wasn’t great (or even good); I was struggling to make it to the end. But I knew that the video was money. Finally The Cue, “Let me share one more story. Let’s watch this.” Nothing. Silence. Scattered coughing. Crickets. More crickets. A small child began to weep. I eventually realized the video wasn’t going to play. It was up to me to land the plane and I didn’t have a pilot’s license. I tried to retell the story of the video, but I just stumbled through the facts. No emotion. No conclusion. No point. At last decided it was time to park the boat and let the people off. I would hand my disaster over to the band and they would end the misery.
If only the band would come on stage. Soon. Hello? Anyone? Anyone? Crickets. More crickets. I began to weep.
The band was waiting for the video; that was their cue to come on stage. No video, no band. No band, no way out.
Finally my wife mercifully found the worship leader and asked if he might be able to put me out of my misery. Rather than an emotional encounter with an almighty God the audience just looked stunned and confused. The best I can say is that I don’t think anyone was harmed in the process. Except me.
So what do you do with experiences like that? I’d love to hear your Crash and Burn experience and how you recovered. Here are my takeaways:
- It happens to everyone. Even the Apostle Paul struggled on occasion. I’ve been speaking publicly for almost 30 years and I still have nights like last night.
- Technology will fail. It is important to have a backup plan. Always. Even during the 4th service in front of a handful of people.
- It is really up the Holy Spirit to change people’s lives. As soon as I (and my videos) can do the job its time for a big ole slice of humble pie. (I got a double serving last night)
- The best thing to do is to feel sorry for yourself for a little while (that’s what I did last night), learn some lessons and take another run at it. There’s nothing like failing miserably in front of strangers to make you a better speaker. And after last night I should be spectacular.
So how about you? What’s your best public speaking debacle? (Let’s share the pain)