Fail Fast

I screw up a lot, always have, always will, but what matters is what I do next.

My first presentation to a Forrester client was a total F-up. I’m not new to speaking, but presenting in the Forrester style requires a specific style, and as trained speakers, clients pay a lot of money and expect very polished ‘performance’.

Here’s what happened: I was out in NY, and I wasn’t fully prepared, I’d only done a half-ass job of rehearsing the presentation. I had the wrong date typed on the opening slide, and the client saw it. Also, I was giving covering for a colleague and doing her speech, therefore emulating her style, and not doing my own thing. Apparently, the client wasn’t impressed, and even suggested I was dressed inappropriately, I’d argue that I was, but the customer is right. The next week, in the de-brief with the account team, I got a 30 minute well deserved earful, and had to sheepishly apologize and sent them an mea culpa email which I hope they forwarded on to the client. Fortunately, the relationship with the client is salvaged, and we continue to do work with them, although I probaly won’t be invited back.

I sadly dwelled on this for a few days, got some support from my colleagues (Josh, Charlene), my boss-boss Cliff Condon was supportive, mentioning to me it was a ‘hard-knock’ a good lesson to walk away with.

So what was I going to do about it? I made a vow to correct this problem: I started to rehearse outloud several times before new presentations (in the car, at home, in the hotel), started to read more materials on how to be a better speaker, and got some internal training and support. So far, I’ve given maybe 30-50 presentations since that ill-fated day, each with good-to-great remarks from clients, I’m confident the things within my control won’t happen again.

So what did I learn? Every company, every website, and every individual is going to make mistakes and fall. What matters is to quickly learn from those mistakes, and improve that it doesn’t happen again. It’s important in the web industry (a rapidly changing one) that we work in environments that accept mistakes as long as they are not repeated again through hard lessons.

The trick is to quickly make mistakes and then rapidly fix them and move on. So my friends, fail fast.

Now back to you, how have you quickly turned a negative (product, feature, complaint) into a quick positive iteration?