How To Be Impressive When You’re Failing

Failing and impressing in publicIf you’re a risk-taking extrovert like most Manic Impressives, you’re bound to find yourself screwing up at times. These are moments that test your ability to thrive, even when your mistakes are out loud and very public. So it’s important for folks like us to know how to be impressive even when we’re failing.

Case In Point

If you show some talent with words and audiences, at some point you will be asked to get up in front of a large group to speak. Even if you find yourself failing at this, you can do it in a way that is impressive.

Like when my friend asked me to read a bible passage at her wedding. It was going to be a big formal church thing, so I showed up at the rehearsal with the passage marked in my bible. At the appropriate time, I got up and did my part.  The pastor told me that during the wedding, I would actually be reading from the giant bible on the lectern. It would be opened to the right page and the passage would be marked. Cool.

Holy Crap, I’m Failing!

But during the actual wedding, I got up to the lectern and found that every passage was marked in the giant bible. Holy Crap, what am I going to do? I scanned every part of the opened page, then flipped ahead a couple pages to see if someone had accidentally turned to the wrong page.

There was a polite “ahem” from the pastor, calling my attention to the passing time. I looked up, scanned the audience, gulped, and realized I would just have to pick a passage and go. With a thousand eyes trained on me, I chose something and began to read.

If you’re playing along at home, you can probably see it coming. Yes, it’s true.  I read a funeral passage at my friend’s wedding.

Funny Thing About That…

Two heads immediately jerked my way when I launched into a most inappropriate message for a wedding. I did my best to ignore the daggers stared at me from the pastor and the mother of the bride.

I soldiered on, finished my part, and sat down in shame. Hey, the show must go on, right? I’d suffer the consequences after.

But that’s not what happened. Immediately after the ceremony, the bride’s brother-in-law came up to me and congratulated me on my reading. “Aram, wow, that sure was a dramatic pause up there. You had us all hanging on every word!”

Not what I was expecting. Shamefully I confessed I had not paused for dramatic effect. I was totally lost and panicking in front of the packed church, not knowing what to do. He pointed out that no one seemed to notice and I had read beautifully. “Good job, Aram!”

Three Keys To Being Impressive While Failing

Looking back, there were three key things I had going for me that day. These key qualities will serve you well when you’re panicking in front of an audience, knowing you may be about to blunder.


If you’ve so far managed not to pass out or vomit, acknowledge that you’re going to be okay (there’s no recovering from unconsciousness or barf). The most important thing to do in a failing situation is to keep it together and keep moving.

Stand your ground, stick to your message, and deliver as best you can. If you can keep your composure in difficult moments and not draw more attention to your mistakes, you can still be in position to impress.


You’re going to need this just to get up there, and you can’t get good at performing in front of others if you don’t get up onstage.

So you need to cultivate a healthy bit of confidence – enough to develop your capability and withstand the shame or ridicule that can come from failing in public.


Difficult moments don’t necessarily build character. But they certainly reveal character. If you are a person of integrity and can own your mistakes, people will respect you just for that. You may not be their first call for the next speaking gig, but you can still impress them with your character.

So showing a little humility is good, but flogging yourself isn’t. Take your mistakes in stride and you’ll live to tell great stories to your grandchildren. Most every great speaker or entertainer lives through some public failure, and they often use their mistakes to entertain and enlighten future audiences.

Failing Is Relative

I endured some gentle ribbing from my performance, and yes, the mother of the bride and the pastor held it against me to some extent.

But not in the way you might think.

Many years later, at the mother of the bride’s funeral, the family asked me to do a bible reading at her ceremony.

If you’re playing along at home, you can probably see it coming. Yes, it’s true, I read a wedding passage at my friend’s mother’s funeral.

But not by mistake. By request. 

Everyone Loves A Tale Of Redemption

My wedding screw up was part of my friend’s family lore. They had enjoyed this story so much, my friend asked me to read the wrong passage on purpose. In honor of her mother.

It was one of the kindest things a person could do.  My friend gifted me the chance to redeem myself publicly. And in the spirit of the event, I managed to savor this very inside joke right along with them. And maybe even impress (or confuse) another packed house in that very same church.

So when you’re going down in flames, keep your composure and don’t draw any more attention to your mistakes. Tap into your inner confidence, and take the opportunity to reveal your character.

You just might end up impressing people because, not in spite, of your failing.

All because of Lucy. My deepest thanks to the dearest friend a guy could ever have.


My Surefire Method To Kill Opportunity

I just got off the phone with a business owner interviewing me for an executive coaching role with his company. A great opportunity, I really wanted impress. But halfway through the call, I realized I was about to kill opportunity.

I was talking waaaaay too much. 

My Surefire Method To Kill Opportunity

As skilled as I am at creating opportunity with words. I am equally skilled at killing opportunity with words. Too many words.

Being Manic Impressive means being good with words. Using them to inspire, enlighten, cajole and entertain. We are schmoozers and storytellers gifted in the verbal arts. We use words to charm and delight our prospects, and influence them to act on our behalf.

But too much of a good thing is very often a bad thing.

The Double-Edged Sword

Eloquent words are great weaponry in most aspects of life. But like any weapon used incorrectly, words can inflict a lot of damage to yourself.  I happen to be very good at stabbing myself this way.

I’m like a ninja assassin. But I’m constantly taking me out.

It starts out great, with me passionately answering questions and giving great examples and stories of how awesome I am. And yes, in a job interview, you do need to sell yourself.

But I often don’t know when to stop selling. And overselling, like talking too much, can be deadly when it comes to opportunity.

Talking Yourself Out Of A Deal

In my early sales training with Xerox, one of the basic concepts they preached was knowing when to make an offer and then to shut up. “Don’t talk yourself out of a deal”, they would say.

Of course, I understood the concept, in theory. But a few years later, I would fail in real-time to succeed in the practice.

After three months of knocking on doors to sell training for a new company, I finally landed an appointment with a key decision-maker. If I could close this guy, I’d get a big account that would get our new firm successfully off the ground.

Things were going great, but for some reason, I was oblivious to all the buying signals this guy was giving off. I kept pushing and kept talking. Until he finally actually said, “Hey, are you going to talk yourself out of this deal? I already said yes. Please stop selling me!”

A Lesson I Have To Keep Repeating

This guy did me a huge favor. Talk about “teachable moment!” The lesson he taught me was worth far more than the two years of business I got through the contract he signed.

But despite all that, I find myself all these years later, still having to remind myself to keep it brief. Make the point, ask for the business and shut the hell up.

Or as in the case of an interview, answer the question and move on. Don’t belabor the point. One good example is enough. A solid story to show what you can do. Be brief, and you’ll give them more time to ask you more questions.  Then you can tell more (short) stories that prove your worth.

But if you, like me, cross that invisible line by talking too much, you might test their patience.  And you never want them to start wondering if you’ll be more trouble than you’re worth.

Don’t Kill Opportunity Like Me

Be smart. Choose your words wisely and don’t overwhelm people with them. Know when to ask for what you want, and then, SHUT UP! Let the other person respond without jumping in to fill the silence.

Silence can be your best friend. Lord knows I need him with me now.