What it’s like to feel famous

What it's like to feel famous

By Mark Schaefer

Over the past ten years, I’ve written about my ups and downs during my “second career.” I’ve covered just about every possible emotional perspective … anger, disappointment, fear, wonder, and joy, to name a few.

But this week I had an unprecedented emotional experience and I am still processing it … something I have never felt before.

For a 24 hour period, I felt famous. And I’ve never written about that. Let’s see where it goes.

The buzz

I’ve been a speaker at the annual Social Media Marketing World conference since its inception seven years ago. In 2016, I was the closing keynote speaker and I was asked to fill this important role again in 2019 … but something was different this time.

The feeling started before I even arrived in San Diego. There seemed to be a furious amount of anticipation and buzz before I even landed. One person told me it seemed like the entire convention center was waiting for me.

When I got to the event, there was a long line of people who wanted to say hi or grab a photo. One woman told me that meeting me was on her bucket list. I have been to hundreds of speaking events and met many “fans” before, but this level of attention was on entirely new level.

The speech

On the day of my talk, I attended a few private events and relaxed in my room. I didn’t need any more preparation. I had rehearsed so much for this day I was sick of myself. I had given this talk just twice in public before but the reaction was huge, so I was very confident in the material — highlights from my new book.

Still, there is nothing that can prepare you for standing alone, under the bright lights, on a massive stage and looking 5,000 people in the face. I don’t think I could ever get used to that. But the crowd was fired up and ready to be entertained. The laughs were loud and several people told me they cried. I brought the thunder. The preparation paid off.

The speech ended with a rousing call to Be More Human, confetti cannons, and David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” ending the three-day event.

The outfall

As I came off the stage, I was swarmed by fans who wanted photos and autographs. I had never experienced such adulation. Between the end of the talk and an after-party that was still going at midnight, I was captured in hundreds of selfies.

I felt so … loved. Just completely surrounded by love. Wild.

I stayed up late thumbing through some of the social media posts. The feedback was humbling:

  • “He blew up the stage.”
  • “You exceeded wow.”
  • “Mind-blowing”
  • “The speech we needed to hear.”
  • “Goosebumps, hope and laughter in one bottle.”
  • “So much fun. We absolutely loved you.”
  • “Your talk was the highlight of the event.”
  • “A talk above all other talks.”
  • “Your keynote gave me back my fire.”
  • “Best speech I’ve ever seen.”

I didn’t see a single negative comment. Whew. I was satisfied that I had done a great job and somehow delivered a speech that appealed to everyone.

I collapsed in bed, completely exhausted from my single day of fame.

So strange

In the plane on the way home, the adulation continued as people near me were air-dropping pictures of my talk to my iPhone (that was a first!)

I was still wired from the energy of the event and just kept thinking, “Wow that was so weird — this is what it must be like to be famous.”

Fame is not a natural human condition. Not many people ever get to experience that feeling. So in that way, I am very fortunate. It was a unique life experience.

I am still processing what exactly happened but here are a few thoughts on what it was like to feel famous.

  • I would not want to have fame all the time. It was nice for a day but I am happy to be obscure again.
  • Although I was a bit unnerved by the level of attention, I did enjoy it. I decided that I would rather experience it than not experience it.
  • The next day, I had a withdrawal, like coming off a drug. I can see how a certain personality type would be addicted to that high. It was weird being famous … then it was weird not being famous again.
  • I found it uncomfortable to talk about this experience with my family. I felt like a bit of a jerk saying “I felt like I was famous.” Maybe I seem like a jerk now. I’m sure somebody will tell me!

I know there is a high probability I may never experience this again. SMMW is a unique place where a lot of people know of me. I spoke in a frenzied room where everybody was wired and eager to see me. Those special circumstances may never occur again. Most places where I speak (like a trade association) only have a vague idea of who I am.

I’m not sad that this might have been a singular career highlight. I’m grateful that it happened, But … I’m a lot more comfortable just hanging out with family and friends and being a non-famous guy.

When I got home, I cut the grass, did my laundry, and watched basketball on TV with my wife.

Fame over.

Note: I’m sure a lot of people might be curious to see this speech. It was recorded but will only be available to those who purchased a virtual ticket to the SMMW conference.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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