So TEDxSMU Finalist audition was tonight. 

Everything was ready. I memorized my lines and practiced in front of my family, friends, co-workers, and even some random people. I even bought the new PowerPoint for the TEDxSMU event organizer because she had an older version that couldn't run my visual heavy presentation file.

I thought the worst case scenario would be me stuttering on the stage and people laughing at me. My mom even joked that I should just do "Conan dance moves" if I mess up.


Well... my worst case scenario in my head didn't happen. An unthinkable happened instead – the projector froze. And I was only 2 slides into my 20 page presentation.

While they tried to fix the projector, I was asked to wait on the stage in front of 150 audience members in the deadest silence, and everyone started whispering.  It was getting really awkward, so I did something I never thought I would – I made a joke.

I just opened my mouth and started talking, and everyone started laughing. I even danced... the Conan dance. It was great... for 30 seconds. Then they told me they fixed the projector and wanted me to start over. Well... it wasn't fixed.

So I decided to give my visual presentation without the visuals. It was going well until I got to a point where I was supposed to point something specific on my screen. I was completely stuck and told the MC that I can't go any further without the visuals. He told me I should just summarize my presentation and wrap it up. So I did.

When I finished, I got the standing ovation, but I couldn't tell if it was because my presentation was great or because they just felt bad for me. At the end of the show, they picked out 2 people to speak at the main event in October, and I wasn't one of them. So I'm guessing that standing ovation was out of pity. 

As I was driving home, I thought of all kinds of things I could have done to save the presentation and make it even better. But I couldn't think of it earlier because I was so set in stone with the script I had memorized. When I couldn't think of a way to stay on track with the script, I just gave up.

The biggest lesson I learned today wasn't overcoming my extreme stage freight, but realizing that – there is always a way out. And that new way could potentially make your situation even better than your original plan, but I gave up too easily tonight when I thought I hit a wall.

I'll never forget this night and the lesson I learned...