Category Archives: Conferences

Things relating to conferences and networking events

Quiet The Beast: How to deal with the part of your brain that says mean things to you

When I was growing up, I just thought certain things were truths. Being messy is bad. Not having cool clothes (a puffball skirt, say, or a stonewashed denim jacket and matching skirt) means people won’t like you. Being fat is my fault and something I should be ashamed of.

In my teens and early twenties, the list grew. Going too far with a boy makes you easy. Wanting to kiss a girl is weird and gross. Smoking makes you cool. Especially if you’re not drunk. Especially Benson and Hedges.

Twenty years, countless self-help books, hours of journalling and — thank you, privilege — a LOT of therapy taught me that those ideas were just that, ideas. They weren’t truths. When I believed them to be true about me, and used that to judge myself, it wasn’t because this was a reasonable conclusion to make. These thoughts were just the “inner critic.” One part of your brain that sometimes (often) lied.

But then, I faced a new problem: if I had figured this out, why was it still happening? If I’m so evolved, why do I keep saying such awful things to myself?

Since becoming a storytelling and speaker coach, I’ve spent a lot of time with brilliant, successful people, listening to their personal stories. One thing that I have come to understand is that having this voice that says mean things about you to you — a voice which I call your Beast — is part of the human experience. And that the trick is not to squash it, and not even to love it. But just to do what you can to reduce the volume and frequency with which it speaks to a level where you can start to tune it out. When you can, you have have a nicer life, and you can change more lives.

This year, I was asked to give the closing keynote at the penultimate (ever!) World Domination Summit. Instead of talking, as I usually do, about Storytelling or Sales Pages or even my I Don’t Have My iSht Together, Either project, I decided to write a brand new talk, where I shared the four steps that have helped me figure out how to master my Beast.

To watch it, click on “Read more” then on the big play button on the vid:

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4 questions to ask yourself before you speak on stage

(AKA a resource I send to clients and potential clients that I never thought I’d share publicly but here we are :))

Glaring at her face on the video call, I stuck my bottom lip out.

“I don’t know,” I mumbled petulantly. “Do I even have to think about that?”

Michelle smiled warmly back at me. “You know you do,” she said. And she was right. I groaned.

When I found out that a long-time daydream of doing the closing keynote at Portland’s World Domination Summit was coming true, I knew I needed help. I coach speakers all the time, but writing my own talk felt like trying to cut my own hair without a mirror. I needed help. And I knew Michelle Barry Franco was the person to help me. What I didn’t know was…

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Sometimes I shoot myself in the foot because it’s the right thing to do: A Tragedy by YYM

Standing in the wings, I looked out at the crowd and felt a rush going from my size 2, Mary Jane shoes, all the way up to the pony tail my mum had done for me that morning.

I was eight years old, and about to have my moment.

It was my brownie group’s Christmas show. I was part of an ensemble piece — but knew everyone would be looking mostly at me. We were going to sing a song called Tails.

Tails Tails Tails, you can swing them high and low! You can wrap them ’round your middle, you can trail them in the snow!

It’s testament to…

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How to stand out when everyone else is selling, too

(AKA “What is it about crying in the bath that’s so exquisitely painful?”)

I sat at my desk, finger hovering over my mouse and feeling sick.
In the words of my friend Holly G, I used to sell my services like I was trying to sell drugs in a back alley. Back in my first year of business, I’d whisper what was on offer once, then never mention it again. In case you’re wondering, I did not have a steady stream of customers.

But, after some tough love from my sales coach (Kendrick Shope), here I was, about to send an email to my list, where I was openly — in my mind, aggressively — asking for the sale. I was terrified. I had started with a story, because I always start things with a story. But then I had very clearly spelled out why the person reading should hire me. I felt so pushy.

Frowning at the screen, I was totally convinced that, within minutes, all 200 people on my mailing list would unsubscribe. Perhaps some of them might appear outside my house with picket signs and tomatoes to throw. I took a deep breath and…

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

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. Up until this…

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Snugglers, Small moments and Sneaking it in: Lessons from WDS 2017

Marsha at WDS 2017

Even as she was walking up to me, I didn’t break my stride.

I was game for talking to people, but I had an hour to get EVERYTHING done – and I was freaking out a little…

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Teaching new ideas that people sometimes resist? Try this!

“So guys,” he said, from the front of the large room. “Try this, and you can get to the root of your issue.”

I was on a table right down at the back, so he couldn’t see me rolling my eyes. Jaw set in fury, I looked down at my paper.

It was the Sunday before last, I was at a business retreat, and I was very, very angry.

This year, I’m in a group program, run by Jonathan “Good Life Project” Fields. I’ve been following him for years, and he’s always steered me right. Under his guidance, my business went from doing okaaaaayyy to suddenly making a living doing the thing I’m best at and most enjoy. Working with him again seemed like a good idea.

On this afternoon, 70 other people and I were in a session led by productivity coach, Charlie Gilkey. I’ve hung out with Charlie before – just that morning, he’d been telling me about his recent trip to Hawaii. We get on well and I really like him. I know a lot of people who’ve been coached by him to wild success. He’s a charismatic, clear and powerful speaker.

But, right now, I was cross with him. Furious, actually. Seething.

Or – to be clearer, I wasn’t so much angry with him, as with what he was asking me to do…

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Telling a story in just one minute

We sat in the lobby of the conference hall. Janne had told me I could be brutal. “I’m Dutch”, she’d said, “I can take it!” But now, I wondered if I’d gone too far.

And then, she burst into tears.

“Oh my goodness!” I cried. “I’m so sorry!”

“It’s ok!” she said, smiling. “It’s a hard thing to do this, because it’s important to me that I get it right. But it’s ok.”

I’m the Storytelling Coach at the Portland conference World Domination Summit (think less Lex Luther, more do-gooders, trying to make the world a better place). Each year, Attendee Storytellers are invited to go onstage and share their stories.

This summer, hundreds of people applied on Saturday morning to tell a story. On Saturday afternoon, Jolie (the conference’s “Fixer and Voice of Reason”) and I combed through the entries, chose five.

Then, I had just half an hour with each, to pull the story out, and figure out they could tell it in one minute. A process I’d usually spend two or three hours with each person for.

Janne’s story was particularly tough, because she wanted to talk about…

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When you meet new people, do you ever just irrationally HATE them?

This is a little embarrassing to admit, but here goes:

A few weeks ago, I locked my bike up outside this juice bar in Portland, a tight ball of nausea in the bottom of my stomach.

I was at WDS – the conference World Domination Summit, where do-gooders (like me) try and make the world a better place – and arriving at my first ‘meet-up’. These are impromptu gatherings thrown by attendees. I had my own one the following day, a short workshop on How To Tell Compelling Stories. But this one at the juice bar was a storytelling meet-up being thrown by someone else – a lady I’d never met before, and was a bit scared of.

Two days before, I’d (finally, very last-minute) decided to put on my own meet-up about storytelling. As I scrolled through those other people had posted, I realised that there was already one happening on the same subject. Gutted at first, I then looked into the details and decided it was ok for both to exist. This one, by a lady called Sara Hunt, was going to be about how to figure out which of your own stories to tell. Mine was more about how to tell your stories. Also, hers was already full, so I figured it was even more ok to put mine on.

But I am a perennial people pleaser, and I was still worried that she’d be annoyed. So I sent her an email.

In it, I explained what I felt the differences were between our two workshops, and told her I’d love to meet her at some point – which was true; from her website and blog, she seemed cool and interesting. Then, I asked whether, if there ended up being a free spot, I could come along to her meet-up.

It took me about 20 minutes of writing and rewriting to compose this last question.

What if she thought I was just coming along to steal her ideas? What if she was annoyed that I was running my own storytelling meet-up and it made her not like me?

My fears were trumped by how much I wanted to go, so I asked. To my relief, I got a reply saying she’d love to have me along.

But now, I was actually here…

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WDS: Five Storytelling Lessons from Coaching the Attendee Storytellers at World Domination Summit

I stood up, feeling the fizz of excitement under my skin, and started looking around the empty lobby of the conference hall. It was evening. I knew that most people had left, but I needed to be certain.

Yep, I was definitely alone.

I walked to the space where there were no chairs. Then, silently and frantically, I began leaping up and down, alternately punching my fists in the air, before ending on a little stationary run.

It was Saturday night, and I had just finished coaching the Attendee Storytellers for World Domination Summit.

WDS is a conference where, once a year, several thousand do-gooders descend on Portland, to get inspired and try and figure out how to make the world a better place. Along with TED-style informative and inspiring speakers, every year, they have a number of “Attendee Stories” on the main stage – where people from the audience can apply to get up and have a go themselves.

I told a story a few years ago – you can hear it here – and, since then, I’ve become the Official Storytelling Coach for World Domination Summit. Which sounds like loads of fun – and is – until you know that I have just one afternoon to help all the storytellers get their 20 or 30 minute stories down to one minute.

One.

Tiny.

Minute.

It’s brutal but, every year, I do it – and, every year, the challenge makes me feel high as a kite afterwards. Hence the silent, solo leaping around.

Here are five things I learned from coaching this year’s attendee storytellers at World Domination Summit

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