Published: 5 years ago

Crash. Burn. Repeat.

A large part of my life is public speaking. When you’re a pastor or leader, that tends to go hand in glove. And most times I’m comfortable in front of a crowd. Maybe overly comfortable. Whether it’s 30 people or 3,000, I’ve gotten past the days when I break out in a sweat or dry heave when I have to speak publicly.

Most of the time.

There are times when things just don’t go as planned. Take last Saturday’s 4:00 PM worship service, for example. Can I tell you that if you go to church on Saturday at 4:00 PM, you are a better human and godlier Christian than I am? I’m wired to do a lot of things at 4:00 PM on a Saturday, but church ain’t necessarily one of ’em. And so I understand. I get the fact that everyone who walks on stage is going to be met with crossed arms and pursed lips, with the collective look on a sea of faces, “Go ahead, preacher boy. Entertain us.” I get it.

So there I was on Saturday afternoon, doing my best to exercise my spiritual gift of announcements at the end of the service. In my defense, the major announcement was an upcoming budget meeting…not exactly Oscar-worthy announcement material. But I gave it my best.

And it crashed.

And then it burned.

And then the vultures gathered to pick the flesh of dead announcements off of my smoldering carcass.

Nothing. No crowd response. No laughter. No smiles. I’m not even sure there was breathing. It was so bad that during the announcements, I felt my cell phone vibrate in my pocket, and I almost pulled it out to look at it because I don’t think anyone would have noticed. But being the announcement professional that I am, I waited until I got off the stage, where I saw this text from my friend and fellow co-pastor Jeremy Pollard, who had been sitting in the crowd:



(Pollard has the spiritual gift of discouragement.)

Here’s how I react when an announcement / sermon point / illustration doesn’t land: I get antsy. I try to adjust course. I may even try to start over. But let’s face facts: when the crowd is gone, they’re gone.

(If you were in the 4:00 crowd, know that I love you. It’s not you, it’s me.)

So here’s the question: if you speak publicly as part of your job, how do you salvage the “crash and burn” of your stage time? What’s your go-to reaction? And most importantly, have you ever fully recovered on the spot?

Let’s make this a safe place to share our feelings and/or horror stories, and most importantly to laugh at each other. Comment below.

  1. Connie says:

    You always crack me up Danny if it’s nothing but seeing your Elfkin grin. Sorry I missed the show (you did great after the 11:00 Sun service)! Don’t beat yourself up…we ALL have been there with worse situations. My worst nightmare is when I broke out into a sweat, my mind went blank and I ran off the stage in front of my peers! 🙂 Public speaking is NOT my gift & I haven’t been asked again (thank you Lord)…but it IS yours! Kudos for you being human (is there another option) and especially for your humbleness! You continue to shine with His love no matter what! I LOVE my church!

  2. Josh says:

    Man, I was passing buckets and didn’t even notice. You’re still the best, Franks – everybody whiffs.

  3. David Hinkle says:

    It was this past Sunday at 9:15a…there I was seeking to change lives one announcement at a time, when I opened with…

    “Welcome to the first weekend of Aug! School is just around the corner and I know you’re excited about that!” [pause for reaction] (Note: in the other three services this opening brought the intended response both cheers and jeers)

    Not so at the 9:15a…blank stares, awkward silence…the fly buzzing the stage was deafening in that moment…so I did what my late night talk show mentors do…move quickly to self-deprecating humor, question my future employment publicly, and then finish with a pause [wait for the obligatory, half-hearted laugh] and move on to: “ok then…I’m so glad you’re here…”

    I found announcement redemption at the 11a service.

    • Danny says:

      Connie, thank you. What in the world is an Elfkin grin? 🙂

      Josh, I expected better rescue skills from you.

      Hink, I might just have paid money to see that. My favorite response I’ve ever heard from a speaker? “Well, apparently I’m just still standing here awkwardly on stage.”

  4. zshanlon says:

    I remember the first time I was giving a presentation to a CEO I got nervous and starting making the wrong points. I was preparing for another meeting later in the week and I was trying to act like I knew this subject better than I did an I just bombed hard. I got my presentaion points all mixed up. The CEO of a major national retailer that starts with Stein and rhymes with mart actually said “stop, just stop the bleeding.”

    I didn’t recover well. I was embarrassed at work for weeks. Everyone takes one on the chin but not to get too serious it showed me I had an idol which was approval of man…so I had that going for me.

  5. Stacey Brooks says:

    I was at the service Danny, even sitting in the front row. And I heard you announce the budget meeting… “okay, budget meeting. got it. papers outside if you can’t go online. got it. ” Then I heard you ask if we were alive. And I wasn’t sure what you meant. (I certainly felt alive)
    Maybe (because J.D. says women have spaghetti brains) the info got tangled up in a bunch of other noodles and I missed something.

    Maybe we were just so frightened near to death at the thought of going out like Rupert said and evangelizing our neighbors we just sat there stunned at the reality of what he asked us to do.

    Maybe y’all should have Matt Papa sing the announcements…. (just kidding)

    I thought you did a great job announcing the budget meeting. I promise I’ll be more excited next time.
    your fellow Tennessean,

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