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Failing Forward: 5 Mindset Shifts To Bounce Back From An Awful Presentation

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What’s the worst thing that can happen as a presenter?

You’re giving a presentation and you feel like you are on a sinking ship. Stay tuned to the Moxie Talk blog, we are going to discuss how to recover from giving the titanic of presentations.

Hi everyone, I’m Fia Fasbinder welcome to the Moxie Talk blog where we help you find your voice, share your message, and lead with confidence.

Today we are talking about how to recover from a bad presentation.

Now, I’m going to tell you that I have given plenty of disastrous presentations in my life and I think probably half of our business at Moxie comes from people who have just delivered a disastrous presentation—so we know a thing about failed presentations here at Moxie.

I want to unpack what I’ve learned from my own failures, from helping clients with their failures, and how to help you fail in a way that is going to lead to improvement in your presentations.

It really all boils down to mindset. There are five techniques that I have discovered with clients. They’re basically mindset shifts that you’ll need to make if you want to recover quickly from a bad presentation.

If you want to lay in bed and eat ice cream and feel sorry for yourself, don’t read this blog. But if you want to be able to dust yourself off, get back out there, and recover quickly, then these mindset shifts are really going to be helpful.


The first mindset shift that you need to make is to change your perspective. Now, there are macro failures that we make in life—huge failures, and there are micro failures.

Macrofailures: Huge, horrible, traumatic, life-altering events

In the scheme of things, macro failures are losing a person you love, losing your job, being in a horrible car accident, and facing illness.

Microfailures: Not that bad, they just feel like it

Micro failures are failures like maybe having a failed presentation. I know that this feels like a macro failure but we as humans tend to make macro failures out of micro failures.

We catastrophize things—we are the only animals on the planet that have the ability to catastrophize and imagine the worst-case scenario. We have these big brains and because of that we worry and catastrophize and think about the worst things that can happen—we absolutely do this if we are walking away from a major presentation that we just bombed.

It’s important to remember the rule of 10 when this presentation happens. You’re walking away and you’re thinking ‘Oh my gosh! I just failed! I’m never gonna eat lunch in this town again. I’m never going anywhere in my career, they’ll never invite me to present again.’

The rule of 10

Think about it this way—the rule of 10 test. This is something I ask my clients:

Will this matter in 10 minutes?


Will this matter in 10 days?

It’ll probably still matter in 10 days, but I’m going to let you decide that.

In 10 months?

What about 10 months?

…in 10 years?

If you really think about this presentation or this failed presentation in the larger scheme of things, you start to have perspective—you start to frame just how “big” of a failure this was.

It’s important to do this because you want to think about, overall, how this failed presentation is going to affect your life. If it’s going to matter in a major way like you will never work at this company again, yeah this might matter in 10 months—but 10 years? Probably not.


Now that you’ve put a little perspective in place as far as the magnitude of this failure, the second mindset shift that needs to happen is to allow yourself to fail forward. Look, I know all of these mindset shifts are easier said than done.

Unfortunately, as humans, we learn from our mistakes—that’s just how it happens. I’m always telling this to my kids in their soccer games: ‘You know winning is great, but we learn from losing.‘ That’s the way it is.

Successful people are the students, not the victims of their mistakes

The difference between most successful people and unsuccessful people is that successful people don’t become the victims of their mistakes.

Take responsibility for your failures and own them!

They don’t become the victims, they don’t wallow in their mistakes, they don’t blame others, and they don’t pass the buck onto somebody else. They take responsibility for the failures.

You’ll need to look really closely and take a hard look at how you failed. I know this is super uncomfortable and it’s ugly to look at how we failed—it is not cute.

However, once you do this and once you say ‘Okay… I failed, I want to get better. What I was doing is not working so I am going to make a strategy to change things up. I am going to make a game plan to not make the same failure again.’

This is literally the pivotal moment that successful people understand, whatever industry they’re in.

Fail and think: That sucked…but I’m going to learn and improve!

Whether they’re keynote speakers, athletes, performers, or leaders of successful companies, they understand that failure is a part of life.

The bottom line of failure: What are you going to do about it?

I mean this is just this is a true statement and the question is what are you going to do about it?

I have seen this kind of accountability—dusting off after a presentation failure and getting right back at it—lead to so many public speaking transformations that I can’t even count.

I’m going to give you a couple of examples because I’m hoping that this will motivate you.

From a doctor who completely froze during a presentation to medical students, to a group of people that were giving a pitch presentation that was so bad the investors literally ended the presentation to a very well-renowned architect who was eaten alive during a Q&A session for a huge building proposal that he was working on…

These are all clients that have come to Moxie who have been willing to take a good hard look at where they failed and made the super difficult decision not to lick their wounds, not to stay in bed eating ice cream, but to instead get back out there in the ring and fight again.

I’m telling you that this ability to fail forward, as difficult as it is, is key.


The third mindset shift is pretty much related to this idea to fail forward.

It’s something that you need to do in order to fail forward which is to not put so much time, energy, and effort worrying about what other people think of you after the failed presentation.

This kind of worry is paralyzing. The thing about it, if you really think about it, is that we don’t really care about failing. We care that people see us fail and we worry about what they’ll think of our failure.

The spotlight effect: ‘I’m being watched and I’m being judged‘

This mentality is what psychologists call the spotlight effect. This means that we have this mindset or this psychological bias to think that people are paying more attention to us than they really are and to think they’re paying attention to us in a negative way.

This is true but this kind of thinking, as difficult as it is to shake, is going to stop your progress.

I know you’re probably thinking ‘I can’t help worrying about what people think,’ and I know it’s difficult. We’re human. We are social creatures. It’s part of our DNA to worry about what people think.

In fact, Charles Darwin thought that maybe speech anxiety was related to this idea that anything that made us think we are going to be ostracized from the clan would cause us to go into fight-or-flight.

If you think about it, the kind of modern-day clan that we have is our team at work or our audience. If we’re so worried that ‘Oh my gosh! they’re going to cast me out. They’re not going to like me. They’re gonna wonder why I was chosen to do this presentation,’ then all of our energy is going in the wrong direction.

I get it. If Charles Darwin had a theory about this, it means that it’s bucking survival instinct—What I’m asking you to do. I get it, it really is. I worry about people what people think of me all the time, we all do.

However, we have to try as much as we can to make our energy forward, to make our energy focused on  How can I improve? How can I do better next time? What do I need to do better? literally moving the energy forward.

Take the energy spent on worrying and put it into finding solutions.

Worrying about what people thought about the failure in our presentation is backward. We are worried about something that happened in the past, that we cannot control anymore than we can control what people think of us. What we can control is what we’re going to do about this failed presentation.

As hard as it is, as much as you need to wrangle with this, you must try to worry less about what people think about your failure and focus all that energy on doing better.

If you find yourself starting to think about what people thought about the failure again, switch it. Recognize ‘Oh! I’m worrying again about what they thought. I’m going to make the decision now to change my thought pattern and to think about how to improve this.’

You’re going to catch yourself doing this a lot and you are going to have to make the decision to change your mindset. It’s a mindset shift. It really is.


The fourth mindset shift is being open to feedback. I can feel your eyes rolling at me—every single one of these mindset shifts is difficult. I know!

If this stuff was easy, everybody would be amazing at everything they do. They would learn from all of their mistakes, everybody would be successes, nobody would let their failures stop them, and this would be really easy.

I get it, it’s not easy, but this really is the path that I have discovered to be the most effective to recover, dust off from anything, especially a failed presentation. Therefore, the fourth mindset is feedback.

Being open to feedback because most of us hate asking for feedback—and I get it it is so vulnerable to ask people for feedback. It’s like asking them to pay attention to you which, we already just talked about, is difficult.

It’s hard when the feedback opposes our view/opinion of ourselves.

Then most of us, when we get the feedback, we spend all of our time trying to justify why it wasn’t right or prove that it isn’t accurate, right? I get it, feedback is tough even for me. But the most successful people in the world solicit feedback.

Feedback is built into every coaching program and training program we do at Moxie because we know it’s the difference between good and great. It really is.

Feedback fills in all of our blind spots.

If you think about it, feedback is the most accurate rear view window we have. Without feedback, all we know is how we felt about that presentation or how we think other people felt about the presentation, so listen to feedback.

Get some real feedback from people that are not you. You actually ask them what they thought about your presentation instead of just assuming what they thought about it. Otherwise, we really don’t know. We have no idea if what we felt is accurate.

One thought leader that I love is Adam Grant. I’m not sure if you guys are familiar with him. He is an amazing psychologist. He wrote a best-selling book called Option B along with the CEO of Facebook and he grew up as a swimmer. He was a diver actually.

He tells the story that when he was diving, he would think and feel that he was doing the dives correctly but he was getting low marks from the judges.

Finally, he decided to have his coach videotape him and then give him feedback afterward. He could see because of the feedback the difference between how he felt and what he was actually doing. This can be applied exactly like that to presentations.

This is also why all dancers practice in front of mirrors

Get a trusted advisor. It could be somebody that you work with, it could be a spouse, it could be another presenter that’s really great. Ask them for feedback. Ask them what is working in your presentation and what you should change.

Speaking of videotaping yourself, this is so difficult but I guarantee you that you will learn so much about yourself as a presenter. Your eyeballs are not going to melt out of your head and you will see so many things—if you’re moving too much or if you’re speaking too fast or if your eyes are darting or if you are using filler words—what’s going on with you when you present.

Therefore, feedback really is a mindset shift that you need to make if you are going to recover from a failed presentation.


The fifth, last but not least mindset shift is to celebrate your wins. Now we’ve talked a lot in this blog about your failures. We’ve focused on the failure, right?

We do this as human beings and it’s actually called the negativity bias. It’s a psychological term that means that we are hardwired to focus on negative experiences. They say that negative experiences in our brain are like Velcro: We hold on to them and positive experiences in our brain are like Teflon: we push them out.

This is part of our evolution and it made sense to focus on negative things when we were cave people. It would not make sense to say ‘Oh! I hear a rustling in the bush, I should just probably relax and breathe, I doubt it’s a saber-toothed tiger.’

NO! we had to think there are dangerous things in those bushes every time we heard rustling in the bush. It would make sense to think ‘I better run,’ but this kind of negativity bias really does not serve us in our modern-day.

It’s really easy to get into the trap of only focusing on what we did wrong and what we need to improve. but sitting in our accomplishments and being proud of our small wins is just as crucial as focusing on what we need to improve.

In fact, it’s equally as important because when we focus on the things we’re doing right our brain emits dopamine.

Dopamine: Get a hit of happy!

Hits of dopamine are addictive. They’re as addictive as sugar and cigarettes, so the more you can help yourself focus on the small wins the more motivation you’re going to have to keep going towards that goal—that is tough.

So a balance between This is where I need to go, these are the things I need to improve, and Hey look at all this stuff I’ve already done. Look at all these small steps I’ve made towards that!—so important.

Now that we’ve covered 5 mindset shifts that you can make to recover quickly from a failed presentation:

One good breakthrough is all it takes

It’s important to remember this you are only one presentation away from success. It’s true! Your next presentation might be that successful presentation and remember Success breeds success, confidence brings confidence. You just need a little momentum to get you there. So the next time you bomb a presentation, instead of shrinking in the corner and deciding never to do it again, I want you to think ‘I’m grateful for this experience,’ and take a moment to dust yourself off and think about these 5 mindset shifts and get right back at it. I know you can do it. If you like this blog, please make sure to share it and subscribe to our newsletter and YouTube channel. Be sure to comment and like the video. If you want to know more about the kind of feedback we give at Moxie Institute and what we can do to help you with your next presentation, check out or book a call! See you on the next blog.


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