This happens to me EVERY TIME I’m at a new event. And it’s so painful.

Marsha on a blue background

One Sunday morning at 8.25 in the morning, I sat at the back of an auditorium in Philadelphia, cursing myself. And then cursing everybody else: the woman I had just spoken to; my friend Laurie, who’d organised my ticket; and each person sat in front, behind, or to the side of me.

Marsha on a blue background

Up until this last weekend, I’d spent a lot of my Summer speaking or running workshops at various conferences.

In July, I was at the World Domination Summit in Portland, running a sold-out (I know) Storytelling Academy, coaching both the Attendee Storytellers and my client Jolie Guillebeau, then watching  them all smash it on the main stage (I’ll show you the videos when they’re up!).

In August, I was running two Storytelling Workshops at Camp Good Life Project. Then last weekend, I did three talks, as the official Awkwardness Controller at Jeff Goins’ Tribe Conference. At all of them, I worked hard and I had fun. I was excited on the  way there, and excited when I arrived.

But last weekend? This was different.

I was coming, for the first time, to Michael Port’s Heroic Public Speaking Live event. It was the first time I’d been to a conference both as an attendee and for the first time, in years And I’d forgotten how dreadful it made me feel.

The start time was Sunday morning at 8am, and they’d asked us to arrive 45 mins early to register. I’d got into Philly (am I allowed to call it Philly?) the night before, and set my alarm for 7am. I figured I’d squeak into the event with 15 to spare.

In recent years, I’ve finally understood that my relationship to time is very aspirational. I’m not late all the time because I find it relaxing and fun – I don’t. I’m late because I genuinely believe that I can be up and showered and have ‘good morning’ messaged my sweetheart and walked for 10 mins to the venue, all within an hour.

So, at 8.15, I walk through the front doors and see the registration desk. There is no one there. No one else is as late as I am. Oh god.

Eventually, I get a lady’s attention – and she discovers that there isn’t a pass with my name on.

“Didn’t you fill out the form?” she asks.

I screw my face up – and then start vaguely to remember Laurie – the friend who’d got me the ticket – sending me the link to an online form…

I tell her I didn’t, so the lady has to hand-write my name in sharpie. She writes it wonky and small. Then she ushers me towards the back half of the venue.

I go to the wrong doors, and appear on the theatre balcony within sight of Michael Port – host of the conference, and someone I know well enough that I don’t want him to notice how late I am.

With whispered ‘excuse me, excuse me’s, I managed to find my way to an empty spot, then sit, quietly sweating.

And silently cursing.

You’re SUCH a cretin. Why didn’t you leave earlier? Did you REALLY need to send Christa such a long good morning email?

Everyone’s going to see that your nametag is hand-written and think you faked your way into this conference. You’ll seem so unimportant.

Laurie should have reminded me about the form.

No, I should have just filled it in straight away, I’m SUCH an idiot.

Who are these people anyway? Some of them are in suits. I hate all of them.

I don’t want to be here. Why the eff did I come here??!

I miss my mum.


I should add that missing my mum is a gently constant state for me. She lives in London, and I’m usually in Toronto – so I don’t actually have that top of mind. But in my sadness and anger and panic, I longed desperately for the comfort that she represents.

I felt wretched. Awful.



Then I remembered:


This is just The Conference Feeling!!! This is just fear of not being good enough! It’s that my brain thinks, ‘if I can hate everyone first, it doesn’t matter if they don’t like me’. I always feel like this at the beginning of a conference where I’m not speaking and I haven’t been before!!

I also remembered that

(a) it never lasts,


(b) the way over it? Is through. I just needed to ride this out.


Finally, they let us out for the first break – which is when I spotted a familiar face. My beloved (and amazing) friend Brenda Barbosa – who I’ve spent hours with online, but have never hugged in person before.

I ran over and threw my arms around her, both of us squeaking in delight.

After that? I was set. There were, of course, moments where I still felt nerves: putting up my hand to contribute in front of the whole room; asking strangers if I can sit at their table for lunch. But it was just a flash that I – again – pushed through, until it was gone.

Doing this opened the door to a lot of powerful learning about how to be a better speaker (and how to help my clients). Heroic Public Speaking Live is INCREDIBLE, and if you are (or want to be) on stage, I highly (highly HIGHLY!) recommend you go..

So, if you find yourself going to a conference or an event, and spending the first part hating yourself and everyone else – don’t worry:

That’s not how you really feel.

You’re just nervous. Slap on a smile, push through and it’ll pass.Twitter logo

Thanks so much for reading! If you know anyone whose nerves ALSO manifest as hating everyone, you can share this blog with them using one of the round buttons below. And if you’ve ever felt like this, I’d love the solidarity – leave me a comment! Thanks!

If you want to tell stories like this in your blogs – or talks – and would like a little help? I’d love to do that. Book in a free (no obligation) 15 minute chat with me, here:


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You rule.


xx (Yes Yes) Marsha


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Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Unsplash


  • Catherine Cerulli

    Reply Reply September 29, 2017

    Brilliant….as always….and oh, so true. Thank you!!

    “My relationship to time is aspirational” – OMG. There should be a support group for that one.

    It has only taken me almost 65 years to realize that whatever amount of time i think i should allow….i would be wise to double it if i want to arrive like a breath of fresh air rather than a whirlwind.

  • Elyse Sparkes

    Reply Reply September 29, 2017

    OMG Marsha, you know what I’m thinking!!!

    I’m not as frequent of a conference-goer as you, but I was at a conference by my lonesome last weekend and I can TOTALLY relate to all of this. And now I know, it’s just The Conference Feeling! It absolutely got better once I actually started talking with people, but those initial moments (and those few moments before you know what you’re doing for lunch everyday) are intense.

    THANK YOU for explaining this and sharing your experience!!!

    xoxo elyse

  • Lara Allan

    Reply Reply October 4, 2017

    Totally related. Heck, I was the first person at the WDS opening meet and greet and also the first to leave.. before more the. 12 people arrived! Every says what an extrovert I am but I cringe with unworthiness at conferences!

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      So glad you could relate! We just need to learn to push through :)

      Thanks for stopping by! :)


  • Jan

    Reply Reply October 4, 2017

    (y) Yes, I do feel like this before an event. I actually felt like this before the event you attended, even though it was my second year, I had loved it to the moon the year before, and I had made friends I would see. But high anxiety and hate.
    And then I loved it again. The End.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Jan! This honestly happened to me like 50 times before I realised I just needed to push through. And here i was again, feeling it again!

      Thanks so much for commenting. Glad you got there in the end!


  • Jim Mondry

    Reply Reply October 4, 2017

    YS! Oh my! I totally have had that experience, and the last time I remember feeling like that, I happened to be in Austin, with some of the most incredible and inspiring people I’ve ever met. I had massive imposter-syndrome feelings going on, feeling like I had no business being in the same room as these people. I’m just grateful that they all were so generous, compassionate and patient with me.

  • Anne Ferguson

    Reply Reply October 5, 2017

    YS: Yep, I feel like this… but not only at conferences. Parties too. But it alway wears off (thank goodness). Somehow it helps that you also have a version of the nutter mind monkeys that seem to invade my cranium on occasion. As ever, you make me laugh and sometimes squirm a bit in recognition. Keep at it, gorgeous! LOVE you. xoxo

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      oh YES at the parties!! I always try and help, get into the kitchen and start making food or drinks, just to calm me down!

      Thrilled to have you in the YS club :)


  • Nanyamka

    Reply Reply October 5, 2017

    (Y) I can completely relate.
    This makes it especially difficult when you’re continually told how much confidence you exude.
    It almost always makes me feel guilty for not living up to my true self or what others see in me.
    Glad I’m not alone in feeling this way

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Being told you’re confident happens to SO MANY of us who feel this way! And then you’re all like ‘WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME I’M CONFIDENT’

      So glad you can relate! Thrilled to have you in the Yes Yes Family :)


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