When you’re an expert at something, you ruin it for everyone

Reading the spines of the CDs in Mike’s bedroom, the thrill of anticipation I’d been feeling slid, instead, into confusion.

He and I had been dating for a couple of weeks. In London terms — certainly, in the mid-2000’s — that meant a lot more than it does these days. I often joke that when I lived in the UK, rather than dating, it was more like we had arranged matches — except, instead of the matches being made by your parents, they’re made by booze. You’d get drunk and then wake up in a relationship.

The getting drunk that Mike and I had done happened at a new bands live showcase. Like most of the people I dated when I worked in radio, he was in the music industry. An A&R Scout, it was his job first to go out to gigs every night looking for new bands to sign, and then to have opinions on the records being recorded for release. I was a radio DJ at a well-respected indie station. I liked him for his trifecta of being charming, funny and hot, but I can’t say I wasn’t also romanced by the idea of us being a junior-level, music industry power couple.

The first time I picked him up from his house before a gig, I was excited to look through his CD collection. Would we like the same bands? Would I learn from him about new bands I’d soon love? Would I find any guilty pleasures?? It was often my favourite part of any new relationship.

But as I flipped through the titles and artists, I was thrown.

“These are all old bands!” I said.


“Seriously, none of these records came out after 1975!”

“I know. I can’t listen to new stuff unless it’s work.”

“What???” I’d assumed he was as obsessed with repeat listens to new music as me. I was genuinely baffled.

He went on to explain that every time he listened to anything new, he couldn’t get pleasure from it because his work-brain kicked in. Instead of enjoying the tune, he’d think, “That bass drum’s a bit quiet. They shouldn’t have used the pedal on the guitar solo. Why did they turn up the backing vocals so loud??”

It killed the experience for him. The only way he could take pleasure in music was by listening to stuff that was so old, he wouldn’t know how to change it for the better.

A few years later, I’m watching TV and having a miserable time — and I finally get it.

Let me be clear. I love watching TV. LOVE. When I was on dating apps, within my one paragraph of introduction, I mentioned TV shows three times to hammer that point home (subtext: if you don’t love watching tv, PLEASE SWIPE LEFT.) But a few years of choosing music for TV shows had killed my experience of it. Because, instead of being drawn into the drama, in every scene I’d be thinking, “Really? They chose this song?” “Why on EARTH didn’t they use an instrumental here?” “Oh come ON — Maroon 5, I mean, it’s a great song, but such a lazy choice!”

9 years after the last TV show I chose music for, the thing that I ruin for myself has now become watching people’s talks, webinars, presentations and keynotes. As a communication and keynote coach and trainer, it’s hard for me to listen without zeroing on all the things I’d change if I’d had the chance to coach them.

Story not giving us enough depth? Stop skimming the surface, tell us less, and zoom in!
Too many ideas for us to remember? Stick to 1–5 teaching points!

But there’s one mistake that I see over and over (AND OVER) again. Even from brilliant, experienced speakers. And it breaks my heart every time.

It breaks my heart because these speakers (/webinar hosts/presentation-givers) are doing something where they are ASKING THEIR AUDIENCE TO STOP LISTENING TO THEM SPEAK.

Not like, “Let’s all take a moment to be silent.”

More like, “I’m now going to do something which will compel you to stop listening to anything I have to say, rendering me saying anything as totally pointless. After that, you’ll have lost where you are and probably fail to understand my next point because of that. The chances of me keeping you engaged for the rest of my talk or presentation are now slim to none.”

Would you like to know what this giant error is? Of course you would. I’ll tell you in the form of an impassioned plea:


Please. Please. Stop putting so much text on your slides.

When you do, you’re telling us that those words are SO important that we must read them. And if we must read them, then we must stop listening to you.

And then you’ve lost us.

I’m going to be banging on about this for a couple of weeks. I’ve even made you a video where I demonstrate it!

All of that to come. In the meantime, whenever you next do a presentation, webinar, or anything where you’re speaking to people en masse accompanied by a slide deck, please


Thanks so much for reading! If you know someone who has a presentation coming up, I’d LOVE you to share this with them, by clicking on one of the round buttons below.

Ok, now your turn: what’s the thing that your insider knowledge has ruined for you (and possibly all your family)? Lemme know in the comments below.

You rule!

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha

PS Want even more tips and advice on how to tell compelling stories, plus stories and secrets I won’t put on the internet AND my free guide for the magic bullet for how to tell any story powerfully? Then come over and join the Yes Yes Family by popping your details in below*:

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  • nicole

    Reply Reply December 13, 2021


    So lovely to hear from you. Seriously.

    AND… I relate so much to this post/letter, on a couple of levels.

    First, I have sat m’self down in so many webinars/workshops/presentations, missing sooo much of what the expert is saying — not so much because I am thirstily reading their far-too-text-heavy slides, but because I am fuming annoyedly at the fact that not only do I feel I have to read their slides, but also realizing that everything they’re saying… IS ALSO ON THEIR SLIDES! (A pet peeve of mine.)

    Secondly, just about any production has been ruined for me… including music concerts. Either I am critiquing the production or distracted by how great the production is. In both cases, the experience is less immersive and more… well, it’s work.

    I attended Cirque du Soleil with my family a number of years ago, along with a few work friends. It was a rare treat under The Big Top, scintillating and exciting. Until we realised that those of us who worked in the industry of art and artifice were watching the activity happening in the shadowy peripheral areas more than the show itself. We were annoyingly watching, commenting and elbowing each other in wonder as we watched the crew in the wings, making the show happen. And yes… we were exceedingly annoying to the family members in our party, as the show went on. As a result, I remember much more about the “sideshow” of that cirque experience, than the show the performing artists themselves would likely have wanted.

    Things have not changed much years later… except that perhaps I catch myself before I get too terribly annoying to others.

    Thanks for sharing your stories and insights.
    And thanks for creating a space for inviting mine.

    ~ nicole

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Reply Reply December 13, 2021


      I LOVED your comment, thank you! I’m so glad you relate. I mean, glad, but also sorry because we ruin things for ourselves!! But well done on learning to keep it in your pants before you get up your friends’ noses!!

      Delighted to have you in the Yes Yes Family!


  • Susmitha

    Reply Reply December 17, 2021

    I’m so happy to see you back, Marsha. ☺️ I spied your email in my junk folder yesterday and was like, “What the hell? This should be in my inbox! Have all of Marsha’s emailed slipped through the cracks into my junk folder all along??? ”

    Then I read your hilarious dialogue about missing in action and let out a happy sigh.

    So the ruining thing. I totally relate! My eating out experiences are never the same after I ran my own vegan restaurant for all those years. Now when I visit a place to dine at, all the ways they can make the experience so much more warm and welcoming to the guests just jump out at me. ‍♀️

    On the flip side though, I also became a much, much kinder customer because I understood the inner struggles of running a food business. Haha

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Reply Reply December 17, 2021

      Oh yes, I didn’t think about that for the flip side!! That is comforting. Thanks for sharing! THRILLED to have you in the Yes Yes Family!!!


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