I could feel myself in his shoes...
"Stepping up to the microphone. The stage is set. 800 people star up as I take the stage. Investors are waiting to hear my ideas as competitors critique my every move. The clock is set. And I've only 60 seconds to wow them all.
Did I mention the prize? Not only are investors listening, they're voting too. The best pitch gets one hundred and twenty eight thousand dollars. Funding I need!
The clock begins ticking. 60... 59... 58... The crowd hushes. I open my mouth and the volcano erupts. It's like every syllable is trying to climb out at once, but I manage my name and the company's too. Then I'm sliding into the pitch, so well rehearsed. So familiar. So mine.
But the room is so big. The crowd stares up. Is that judgement in their eyes? Why am I not talking. The volcano's suddenly dry as dust. And in that silent room I don't know what's going wrong as 800 people stare back up at me, and the clock ticks on.
A panic sets in. Where are my words?! How can I... Suddenly a few more come out. Did that make any sense...?
The clock winds down. My moment slips away.
And as I drag my steps down off the stage, head hanging low, the well trained audience claps away, sounding like laughter instead of applause..."
This is my own worst nightmare, the mind going blank on that big bright stage. But yesterday was even worse. I wasn't the one onstage. I was only the coach, helping the real idea people do their thing. I'd only had an hour to help 70 or so ideas prepare for that stage. Curiosity kept me in touch, to see what ideas they'd decided to grow.
And there I was, helpless in the audience, watching as one of my favorite idea guys went radio silent in the middle of his own show.
Still I feel his pain. I've flopped onstage more times than should ever be known.
But a funny thing happened later that day, as I walked through the showcase. This failed pitch came up in almost every conversation. And not a single comment was critical. There was sympathy. There was understanding. There was even praise. His ability to still walk off that stage inspired us all. And though everyone knew his pitch was a bomb, they still praised his ideas and technology, his business potential.
You'd hear comments like "it's too bad, because his technology is so cool", "We need what he offers", "I hope investors can see past his pitch", "he better get funded cause we want more". And whenever I stopped by his booth to tell him the news, he was busy every time.
No other company came up so often, and in so many conversations. Is it possible his Failure on stage was a Smashing Success??
Perhaps. But it was no stunt. His pain was real. And this is why we still care.
Now I know that I stand with a crowd when I say, "We can't wait to see what he does next..."