My New Keynote was a FAILURE! Or was it???

It was a room filled with eager and hungry entrepreneurs and business owners. They had carved availability into their schedules and were ready to absorb strategies and techniques for taking their businesses, income, and impact to the next level.

In the lineup of speakers, I was placed exactly where I like to be – as the “kickoff guy”. The event organizer had invited me to present last year on the big stage, and it was an exciting opportunity to be with him and his team again, with new content, and a rock-solid, “Never Give Up” message.

Matthew Pollard did a phenomenal job with the Small Business Festival in 2016, its inaugural year, and for this year, the conference had expanded to four large markets in the States (Austin, San Antonio, Sacramento, and Buffalo), and one international marketplace, (Sydney, Australia).

All systems were a go!

The room was set, lighting was good, seats were filled, and the microphone was on. And, on my side, just to be EXTRA safe, my wife and I sent the presentation slides ahead of time in not one, but three formats – PDF, Keynote, and Powerpoint.

checkmark-My New Keynote was a FAILURE! Or was it??? By Joel Boggess

From there, the dream opportunity, started to evolve (or devolve), into what many speaker’s would consider a nightmare. Not only could I not get the slides to work, the emcee, now side-stage, couldn’t immediately snap his fingers to fix the problem. Luckily for me, this wasn’t my first rodeo and I had been through tech glitches before. Really… It was no big deal. I knew this speech inside and out. The slides weren’t a memory trigger for me. They were simply a supplement.

Back in the game, tech issues resolved, I did what any good performer would do – I picked back up where I had left off. But something was different. The rhythm and flow I established early on, vanished. And the pace and timing developed through hours of rehearsal, lost.

As my eyes moved from the audience, to the emcee, and then back to the crowd, my mind went blank.

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I quickly scanned my memory in hopes that I could mentally grab onto a relevant point or story so I could resume and salvage the opportunity. The good news is, I found actual words that filled the silence. The heartbreaking news is, they quickly led to nothing.

One last time, I glanced at the emcee, and in a quiet tone, I said, “It’s Gone. My presentation is gone.” While your fight or flight symptoms are probably kicking in at this point – rapid heart rate, flushed face, obvious sweating, broken speech, and a startled look. Instead, I was noticeably at peace, with the situation, with the room, and most importantly, with myself.

It was the peace that made a difference.

god-gives-peace-My New Keynote was a FAILURE! Or was it??? By Joel Boggess

Turning to the audience once again, I fixed my gaze on them and in a clear and confident voice that carried to the back of the room said, “I can’t do this. Thank you for coming. Please forgive me.” And with that, I exited the floor, took my seat at the back of the room, gathered my things, and quietly made my way to the car.

Alone in the driver’s seat, you might think I was mortified with what happened in front of a room full of strangers, the event planner, and one of their sponsors; and horrified by what was to come. But I wasn’t. During the entire sequence of events – on stage, seated at the back of the room, and even sitting in the driver’s seat of my car, I stayed present in the moment, attentive to my thoughts, with a peace that far surpassed my understanding.

No question, I had a spectacular failure and fell flat on my face.

Yet, there I was, in control, accepting of what happened, knowing that this wasn’t the end (unless I let it be), and at peace. I didn’t curse myself, God, my speaking coaches, or the situation.

Although I had a whopper of an opportunity to come down hard on myself, and take many unsuspecting people down with me – my wife, my speaking coaches, the event organizer, the audience, and my supporters, I didn’t. I couldn’t. Throwing my hands up in anger or frustration would do nothing but turn an awkward situation, into a memorably awkward situation. And, while I knew that I had missed this window of opportunity, it was only one window.

In the parking lot, as I leaned against my car, wondering what to do next, the event organizer came out and asked me one of the most powerful questions I’ve ever heard – “How important is it for you to nail this speech?” Emphatically, I said “extremely important” This was THE message I was sent here to give – NEVER GIVE UP.

To that, he simply said – Then get back on stage, and nail it.

Your response determines what happens next.

Immediately, I had a choice to make; I could take one more swing, or I could cower and hide.

And, 9 o’clock, Monday night, in downtown Austin, Texas, I climbed back in the “ring”. I was no longer the opening act, I was now the main event.

The second introduction from the emcee was now short, sweet, and something I remember very well, “Joel has a powerful story. And he’s going to tell it to you. I hope you stay.” In a hushed room, only three people left.

On the stage again, with everyone’s complete attention, something completely unexpected happened – before I said my first words, the applause started.

And I nailed the speech!

The timing was there. The energy from the audience was there. And I was fully there!

While I may have been the only one talking, for the first time ever, I delivered a keynote that wasn’t a presentation, it was a conversation. There was a depth of empathy, understanding, and compassion that I had never before experienced with an audience. It was amazing.

As I made my way through the room afterward, thanking folks for sticking around to cheer me on, the support I received was unexpected and almost knocked me over. One person after another thanked me for being willing to come back and try again.

Here’s how one attendee put it – “Joel you are success in motion. You talk about ‘never giving up’ and ‘letting go’. You walk your talk!”

Here’s an email from another:

“Your resilience is very impressive and you touched on several phases of inner growth on this new path of biz owner/entrepreneurship that I have gone through. Overcoming dyslexia, high school dropout, single mom, MS, cancer.. the list of potential blocks are immense! However… I can relate to the WILL to succeed, faith driven and aiming for our highest potential. Thanks for being inspiring and keeping it authentic!”

I guess actions do speak louder than words!

While it may seem like I’m the hero of this story, the only heroic actions I took was to stand for what I believe in, to NEVER GIVE UP, and to go one more round. And, as it turned out, one more round, was all that was needed, to turn public failure, into my finest hour.

What about you?

What are you willing to climb back into the “ring” for, to try one last time? Is it a pitch? A project? A passion? A personal statement? Or something even bigger?

While staying in the fight and swinging for what you believe in is never mandatory, it’s the only way to a more hopeful, prosperous, and impactful tomorrow.

You have what it takes.

The question is, will you use it?

Matthew, the event organizer, summed up my experience perfectly to the audience – “Joel is doing exactly what we all need to do to be successful in business; get in front of people and share our content.”

key-to-success-My New Keynote was a FAILURE! Or was it??? By Joel Boggess

So what happened? What made my second performance a crowd pleaser?

  • The stakes were gone;
  • I no longer had anything to prove;
  • I remained connected with the audience;
  • I controlled my emotions (no crying, no cussing, no condemning, and no excuses).

Why was I given grace by the organizer?

  • I had taken the time to get to know him on a personal level;
  • He knew I was capable and that I knew my content;
  • He saw the sincerity of my service;
  • I was gracious in my failure;
  • I was gracious in my success.

Why was I given grace by the audience?

  • I took the time to meet many of them before the event;
  • When failure was looming, I didn’t fake it, wing it, or hide from it, I accepted it;
  • I stayed present with what was happening in the moment;
  • While it would have been easy to lose my temper, storm off stage, and slam the door behind me, I kept my cool.

As Matthew pulled away, and I walked toward my car, in what was now a vacant parking lot, I understood (at least better) why I was there and what I was there to communicate – persistence, perseverance, pushing past limits, and reaching your full potential; even when you fail.

Setbacks and disappointments, they’re a part of life. No getting around them.

It’s what you choose to do next, that can be the game-changer.

If I can help you step in, step up, and step over your greatest challenge, roadblock or obstacle, let’s carve out a few minutes and figure out the best course of action.

You have a responsibility to yourself, your family, to the people you’re here to serve, and I believe to God, to stay the course and to NEVER GIVE UP.

never-give-up-My New Keynote was a FAILURE! Or was it??? By Joel Boggess

The editors of Success Magazine wrote a phenomenal bullet-point summary of my latest book, Finding your Voice. Download the report by visiting this page.

If you’d like me to tell this story to your podcast/blog audience, or at your live or virtual event, contact us here and someone from our team will get back with you shortly.

“Never, never, never give up!” – Winston Churchill

Joel Boggess

Keynote Speaker | Corporate Trainer | Award-winning podcaster I help teams ignite their courage, take bolder steps, and get greater results. Together, we create possibilities that bring empowerment, meaning, and financial impact.


  1. Patti on May 11, 2017 at 11:48 pm

    I couldn’t believe the beginning of your experience. I was shocked that you just said “I can’t do this “! But, when I read the entire story, it was beautiful, how you had the peace that passes all understanding and how you felt connected to your audience when you went up to speak again, not easy, but, you made it sound easy. Great story, thank you !

    • Joel Boggess on May 12, 2017 at 4:28 am

      Hi Patti,
      Thank you for reading and leaving your comments. Well, there was no reason that I should try to hide from my audience or pretend that all was good in the beginning. I was simply honest with them and spoke truthfully.
      I think that one of the reasons I received grace and favor was because I took it in stride, and realized it was a part of the process.
      Do me a favor and help us spread the Never Give Up message! If you would please share our article on your Facebook page and on Twitter if you haven’t yet. We all need to be reminded (some of us often) that staying the course is its own reward.

  2. Fred Kienle on May 11, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Sir Joel,
    This is one of the most inspiring stories about Not Giving Up, that i have read in a long time. It drives home an ABSOLUTE fact that if you keep God’s Grace and Peace in your heart, He will Always give you the Courage and Strength to NEVER GIVE UP. Thanks for sharing a wonderful experience.
    Have a Blessed Week. Fred Kienle

    • Joel Boggess on May 11, 2017 at 5:00 pm

      Hi Fred. Thank you for reading and commenting. This was a powerful experience and it seemed to have moved the audience in a powerful way! I guess we all need to be reminded from time to time (so of us often) that no matter what, we must stay the course.
      Would you please do us a favor and help us share the Never Give Up message? It’s super duper easy. Just share the article on your Facebook page. That would do it. 🙂 You can do it from my FB timeline, or right from this blog page.
      Thank you in advance Fred and we look forward to seeing you the next time we’re at Zig’s office.

  3. Marilynn on May 11, 2017 at 7:57 am

    If there were no struggle, there would be no growth. By getting back in the ring, you willed yourself to grow and not be like the butterfly that doesn’t have enough struggle in them and dies in the cocoon. You pushed through and stayed true to your message and yourself. I’m so proud that I can count you as my friend!

    • Joel Boggess on May 11, 2017 at 5:02 pm

      Hi Marilynn.
      Thank you for leaving your comments. Pei and I appreciate very much you taking the time!
      This was a moving experience on many levels.
      I guess we all need to be reminded from time to time (so of us often) that no matter what, we must stay the course.
      Would you please do us a favor and help us share the Never Give Up message? It’s super duper easy.
      Just share the article on your Facebook page. That would do it.
      You can do it from my FB timeline, or right from this blog page.

  4. Sarah on May 11, 2017 at 5:58 am

    Great story, Joel! Thanks for sharing.

    • Joel Boggess on May 11, 2017 at 5:04 pm

      Hi there Sarah.
      Thank you for sharing and for leaving your comments. This was a tremendously powerful experience and moved the audience and organizer in a deep way.
      I guess we all need to be reminded from time to time (so of us often) that no matter what, we must stay the course.
      Would you please do us a favor and help us share the Never Give Up message? It’s super duper easy. Just share the article on your Facebook page. That would do it. You can do it from my FB timeline, or right from this blog page.

  5. Joe Calloway on May 10, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    What a great story about perseverance and never giving up!

    • Joel Boggess on May 11, 2017 at 5:05 pm

      Thank you Smokin Joe!
      So much appreciate your confidence and faith in us.
      What kind of Never Give Up speaker would I be if I threw in the towel and the first go-round?

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