A Personal Reflection on Failure, Redemption, and a Look Ahead

by Marcus Sheridan

One of my favorite photos from speaking at SMMW---an engaged audience. :)

One of my favorite photos from speaking at SMMW—love the smiles! :)

I have so much on my mind tonight. I’m 24 hours removed from attending Social Media Marketing World with almost 2000 other people and I’ve literally just received an email from an attendee that has inspired me to go ahead and write this post.

The email was unique, as the sender had verbally recorded a “thank you note” into his phone immediately after listening to my closing keynote Friday night. Certainly a creative way to send an email, this is what the man said (in summary):

“Marcus, you recently said in a podcast that you were moved to tears after your Content Marketing World 2012 talk. Well, tonight you moved all of us in attendance to tears, and for that, I thank you…”

These incredibly kind words have now forced me reflect—taking a look back but also shifting my thoughts forward—and I hope these words will have some value for you as well.


Many of you may have heard me talk about this before, but I was asked to give a keynote at Content Marketing World by Joe Pulizzi roughly 6 months before his event in 2012. Knowing this was my first really BIG speaking break (my previous high was about 500 people), I was over the moon, and therefore spent the next 6 months envisioning what that keynote would look like.

Well, to make a long story short, I made a big mistake in preparing for that talk, mainly because I never did a complete “dry run” before the actual presentation. (Note** Just because you *think* a lot about a talk or presentation doesn’t make you *prepared*–I learned this the hard way.) This lack of preparation caused me to go over the allotted time by 20 minutes. And not only did I go over by 20 minutes, but Joe Pulizzi (rightfully so) had to come up on stage to let me know I was out of time…in front of roughly 1500 people.


After the keynote was done and the room had cleared, I sat alone on stage, head stooped over, wondering how I could have possibly messed up so badly. Even though Pulizzi had laughed it off and told me not to worry, I couldn’t believe I had disrespected (unintentionally) the time slot I’d been given and the fact that the talk had fallen so short of what I’d envisioned.

It is for this reason that when Michael Stelzner came to me 6 weeks ago and asked me to close out Social Media Marketing World 2014, I jumped at the opportunity. In fact, as soon as I’d hung up the phone I immediately verbalized one-single word: Redemption


I knew this would be my shot to at least “get it right” the second time, which is exactly why I was extremely prepared for the 45 minute keynote. In the two weeks leading up to SMMW I gave the talk (privately) 7 times—all the way through—so as to have a perfect feel for not only time, but every single point I wanted to make. (Note***The more I prepare for a talk, the more it allows me to go “off plan” as I’m giving it, which is a subject we’ll have to discuss another day…)

At the risk of sounding self-aggrandizing, the keynote went exceptionally well. In fact, it was magical—for me as the speaker and for the 1700 or so attendees. Together, we laughed, we cried, and talked about some pretty meaty subjects—professional and personal alike.

Social Media Marketing World

The Power of Personal and Professional

As I look back, I think this is why the talk resonated so much—it provided intellectual value while hitting a very personal chord, something that isn’t often seen in professional conferences.

Even more interesting, since leaving the event I’ve been inundated with messages from attendees of the keynote and at least half of them haven’t mentioned a thing about marketing. Instead, they’ve given me a glimpse into their personal world and struggles, as well as the fact that the keynote led them to do a serious reflection on their personal life, prompting them to make some much needed changes.

To say this makes me happy, and humbled, would be an understatement.

If I may be completely candid, I think for too long we’ve been trying to separate “business” conferences (and teachings) from “life” conferences.  The more I consider this fact, the more I realize this should not be the case. It just doesn’t make sense. The two are much too interrelated and connected. This isn’t to say that some industry events and speakers don’t crossover at least somewhat, but for the most part, it’s rare.

Each and every one of us are struggling in our own unique way—personally, professionally, etc.

Going forward, the companies (with their employees), the conferences (with their attendees), and the speakers/writers (with their audiences) that can achieve this crossover of message will likely find the greatest success stories and ultimately, the greatest impact as well.


One Last Note

I’d like to give a special “thank you” to Michael Stelzner, founder of Social Media Marketing World for giving me such a unique opportunity this past week. Closing keynotes are often reserved for big names and folks that have the ability to move lots of ticket sales. Frankly, I’m not at that point yet. But Mike, as he always has since I first met him 3 years ago,  believed in my abilities as a teacher and communicator, and for that, I’m extremely grateful.


Mad Marketing Podcast

If you like the articles, you'll love Marcus' podcast and insightful tips on business and life.

Click to listen

Subscribe to Future Articles

Read Marcus' future articles and stay on the cutting edge of business, marketing, and life success tips!

Click to subscribe

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Halelly Azulay March 31, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Marcus, congratulations on your redemptive success and thank you for telling your story for the rest of us to learn from! Such valuable advice. Two key points about speaking: practice MORE than you think you need to, and, to paraphrase Eisenhower’s wisdom, “plans are worthless; planning is everything.” But I love most your conclusion about the rising need to look at people holistically as humans, not as professional/personal divides. This is something I am also noticing as a need, and I look forward to riding that wave with you and the rest of those who are willing to let go of that outdated separation. Way to go! Can’t wait to hear about your future successes as you undoubtedly will experience them a thousandfold. Yay you!


Marcus Sheridan April 3, 2014 at 8:54 am

Thank you so much for your thoughtful words Halelly!! Really, they mean a lot and look forward to seeing you soon ;)


Randy Cantrell March 31, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Of course you redeemed yourself. Sounds like you TOTALLY redeemed yourself, Lloyd. http://youtu.be/UnkefjCES-4

I’d love to hear your talk. Maybe it’ll be online sometime soon. It’s been terrific to see your momentum. You deserve it.


Marcus Sheridan April 3, 2014 at 8:53 am

Hahaha, I watched the video and laughed and laughed Randy. Thanks so much my man. :)


Nick Q March 31, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Me. Sheridan – I was completely blown away by your speech at SMMW14. My teaching method was flipped on its head and I have been thinking about ways to incorporate your thoughts and passion into my organization.

“Those who win the trust online, win the sale” and “When prospects visit our website, do we help solve their problem better than anyone else? Very powerful!

We will be spending this week reviewing your speech again and identifying action steps to become better teachers.


Marcus Sheridan April 6, 2014 at 10:38 am

Nick, so glad you were in attendance my friend! Good luck with implementation and have a wonderful 2014 sir!!



Don Stanley March 31, 2014 at 1:09 pm

You know this already, but I’ve spent the past 25 years studying great speakers. When I say great, I mean they touch people on a deep level and cause them to reflect on who they are, what they are doing and make them want to be better. You, my friend, are one of the absolute best I’ve ever seen (that’s why I’ve seen you speak in person multiple times).

Your genuine nature, your passion and the quality of your content are absolutely what people want and need. I love that you have the courage to mix business and life. People need to see that’s not only ok to do this, it’s something they should do. I think they are two sides of the same coin.

On a separate note, I’d love to hear how you practice your presentations. I know for people who stand on the stage, this isn’t hard to do. But since you are so interactive and engaged with the audience, how do you practice and plan for audience participation time?

You rock!


Marcus Sheridan April 3, 2014 at 8:52 am

What can I say Stanley, you’re too good to me brother!!! :)

Much thanks,



Tracy Stonard March 31, 2014 at 1:12 pm

I was at the front on the second row, the audience interaction worked incredibly well and I came away with many takeaways, particularly when you talked about ‘being a teacher in your business’ this resonated with me on so many levels. It was an amazing keynote Marcus and thanks for sharing your journey.


Marcus Sheridan March 31, 2014 at 6:58 pm

That’s so kind of you to say Tracy and thanks so very much for being there! It was a great experience across the board, that’s for sure.

Hope we’ll shake hands at the next conference!



Mike Stelzner March 31, 2014 at 1:24 pm

You made me proud brother. That’s all I need to say for now…


Marcus Sheridan March 31, 2014 at 6:57 pm

And that’s all I need to hear from you brother :-)

Can’t thank you enough Stelzner,



Brittney March 31, 2014 at 2:25 pm

It was a great talk. Part business, very personal, very practical, and very inspiring. Thank you for your preparation and hard work – it paid off!


Marcus Sheridan March 31, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Thanks for saying that Brittney. Yes, it does pay off, and what a wonderful feeling when it does!

Hope we’ll cross paths at another conference at some point,



Christina March 31, 2014 at 2:58 pm

This was my tweet after hearing you speak:

Only @TheSalesLion can take the same pool story I’ve heard twice and make me listen like I’m hearing it for the very first time. #SMMW14

Loved every minute!


Marcus Sheridan March 31, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Hahaha, I saw that tweet Christina and loved it!! What a big smile it gave me, and thank you!



Joe Pulizzi March 31, 2014 at 3:22 pm

You are the man my friend, and a perfectionist…people love you for it.


Marcus Sheridan March 31, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Joe, the feelings could not be more mutual my friend. Hope things are going great for you at CMW Australia.

Take care brother,



Martha Brown March 31, 2014 at 3:36 pm

I was blown away by your speech at it was the final push I needed to go full time into social media consulting. When I stood up and told you I didn’t have my prices listed because I feared people would shop my services, you made me realize I am only doing a disservice to them and to me.

I didn’t cry during the session, but afterwards the SMMW video team interviewed me and I broke down (on camera, just awesome). I am just so inspired by you and so many of the speakers who are SO passionate about building other people up to find their passion and make it their work.

Thank you so much for your speech, it has changed the way I think about my business and has helped me focus on my why.


Marcus Sheridan March 31, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Well dang Martha, it sounds like you got your money’s worth at SMMW!! ;-)

You’re so kind to say these things and I couldn’t be more excited for you!!

Please keep me up to date on how it goes for you going forward, I’d love to know.




Felsefede B. March 31, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Hi Marcus, you’re making people smile. This is the most important. As RWE said once: “For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness”


Marcus Sheridan March 31, 2014 at 6:53 pm

Thanks Felsefede, and LOVE that quote!!! :)



Andrew Freeman March 31, 2014 at 6:10 pm


Thanks for sharing this. While i have never done a speaking gig in front of that many people (my biggest being about 300/400). I definitely empathize with how you feel. I have done presentations where I rocked the room (complete with Elvis impersonations in Vegas) and others where I have felt as if I have bombed. Without a doubt, preparing PROPERLY makes it so much easier.

I wish I could have been there to watch the talk.


Marcus Sheridan March 31, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Very kind of you to say Andrew, hopefully we’ll cross paths in the future my friend. :)




Antonio Coleman April 1, 2014 at 7:45 am

Marcus, next month will be the first keynote presentation here in my city. I’m talking to a small group of business owners at our Chamber of Commerce of marketing and the things they can do to dominate their local market.

I know coming in that I have an hour to do my presentation so like you said practice, practice and practice some more. What key points can you give that can really make this go as smooth as possible?

Antonio Coleman
“The Local Marketing Guy “Signing Off


Marcus Sheridan April 3, 2014 at 8:51 am

Excited for you Antonio!!! Let me know how it goes for you!!


Kathleen Booth April 1, 2014 at 9:21 am


Wonderful post! In reading this, I’m reminded of the process that people who give TED talks are required to go through. The preparation, as I know you know, is extensive, with multiple dry runs, but the result is amazing presentations that always fit into TED’s strict time limits.

Love that you found success in your preparations and looking forward to hearing you speak up in Boston at the HubSpot partner meeting next week!


Kathleen Booth


Marcus Sheridan April 3, 2014 at 8:51 am

Hey Kathleen!!! How are you? So glad to see you stop by and really looking forward to catching up in Baltimore soon. Thanks!!


Jeremy Abel April 1, 2014 at 10:25 am

Hi Marcus,

Congrats on the successful keynote at SMMW- I’m sure you brought the house down!

That special ability to ingrain struggles, triumphs and other elements of your personal life into your content (whether written or verbal) allows your points to resonate that much more effectively (and personally). It helps your audience relate to you as a person above all else. And since you share so much while finding a way to make those elements relevant to the lesson at-hand, it’s not hard to find commonality amongst all those who are fortunate enough to cross your path in life.

Again, a major congrats on the event, and taking the right measures to learn from the past. Keep changing those lives my friend.



Marcus Sheridan April 6, 2014 at 10:39 am

Thanks buddy, appreciate the heck out of you and your kind words. Let’s talk soon about that video you sent me, I’d love to give you the feedback we spoke of.


Chuck Gilmore April 1, 2014 at 11:10 am

Hi Marcus: I’m delighted your talk went so well. We don’t really know each other. However you have responded to an email or two and having listened to all your podcasts and having read much of your e-book and many blog posts, I feel like I know you. And knowing you I care about your success. Somehow, it is very meaningful to me that things went so very well. Thanks for sharing and congratulations. You deserve this in every way.


Marcus Sheridan April 6, 2014 at 10:40 am

Too kind of you to say Chuck. Really, thank you :)

To growth,



Jon Loomer April 1, 2014 at 4:24 pm

You were awesome, Marcus! I brought my kids to watch you because I knew it would be an amazing show. You didn’t disappoint!

It was obvious how prepared and comfortable you were. JJ and Ryan LOVED that you included them.

I told you this separately, but I was almost embarrassed how much I’ve unintentionally stolen from you when it comes to presenting. I ended up following the “Marcus Sheridan Script” without even realizing it when I gave my first presentation on Friday. But combining the personal with technical not only works — the audience is engaged and enjoys it — I find it far more gratifying as a speaker.

Keep rocking it, dude.


Marcus Sheridan April 6, 2014 at 10:41 am

Dude, none of the stuff I do is mine, that is for sure :)

You’ve got the goods for major, major greatness. I knew this when I first saw you and I know it way more today than then.

Onward and upward,



Troy S. April 1, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Good on you for your ‘redemption’.
What you learned is one of the big lessons from TOASTMASTERS. You have GOT to practice the speech live over and over to know just how much time you are going to take.


Marcus Sheridan April 3, 2014 at 8:50 am

Yep, I won’t make that mistake again Troy!

Thanks for stopping by,



James Hahn II April 4, 2014 at 12:23 am

I love watching your evolution as a speaker, Marcus. You’ve always killed it in a 300 person room, but what makes an amazing keynote is very different from what makes an amazing workshop. The preparation, timing, storytelling techniques, and *especially* the platform mechanics are completely different. Not everyone can successfully translate a fantastic workshop into an equally valuable keynote, or vice-versa. But you absolutely destroyed!

I was particularly impressed with your platform mechanics. Your movements while on the stage, going into the audience to interact and obtain buy-in, and then going back to the platform to drive home key points was outstanding. Your energy, humor, storytelling, passion, and conviction was contagious. When you brought it home, I was convinced you had a standing ovation coming. And was thrilled to watch it go down! That crowd couldn’t get to their feet fast enough!!

Good on you, brother! I have a feeling Stelzner *might* bring you back again ;)


Marcus Sheridan April 6, 2014 at 10:44 am

That means a lot coming from you James. You and I are both wired in such a way that we analyze the communication styles of a speaker as much as we analyze the message itself, so thank you brother.

This was the first time I came on and off of the stage in intervals. I knew it was something I really wanted to do, but had never done it as a mix like that…at least not that much. But it seemed to keep everyone extremely alert and kept the energy levels in the perfect place.

Again, can’t thank you enough for your support and friendship.



Employment Agency April 24, 2014 at 4:08 am

Thanks god I came across your speech its really great and I really have thought of implementing your idea in my field. Thanks for sharing this information in this blog.


Marie Santos September 2, 2014 at 9:31 pm

Hi there, all is going perfectly here and ofcourse every one
is sharing facts, that’s genuinely fine, keep up writing.


the six figure mentors cost September 4, 2014 at 11:22 am

excellent publish, very informative. I ponder why the other experts of this sector don’t understand
this. You should proceed your writing. I am confident, you have a great
readers’ base already!


soirée casino Drummondville September 6, 2014 at 9:38 pm

This blog was… how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found
something which helped me. Many thanks!


Leave a Comment

{ 4 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: