Wednesday, November 24, 2010

12 Stages of Conference Speaking

The Sales Job: This is where someone tells you about this session at a conference and how they need someone who has the knowledge and expertise on this ever so complex topic and the only person they could think of was you. “It has to be you. Will you present at our conference?”

“Aw, thanks, I mean, okay, sure” (blush, foot shuffle).

Denial: Stage two immediately ensues and you forget that you have agreed to present.

Mild Irritation: Stage three involves suddenly realizing that a dark cloud has been forming over you and you realize you have been touchy and mildly irritated and you are not sure why until you remember that you have agreed to present at this conference which is only a week a way and you have not done anything to prepare.

Deep Denial: Despite the conference only being a week away you manage to suppress thinking about it under the rationalization that you have far too many pressing things that must get done first.

A Bout of Professionalism: The presentation is only three days a way now and really, it is time to act like the professional you are. So you begin to pull together your notes, check on information, look for new data, but really you have three days yet.

Panic: One day out and it is definitely go time. The reality that you will be in front of folks the next day drives you to get finally it together (kind of).

The Mirror Stage: You present in the next few hours and while you have lots on paper, you really have not said a word out loud and it feels like you are about to deliver the most boring lecture in the world. Yes, it is embarrassing, but you realize that if you don’t practice this thing, you are never going to figure out how to say what you want to say and not be a rambling idiot. So you close the door and give that bad boy a run through which of course leads to frantic revision.

The Jumanji Stage: As you head to the presentation, you begin to invent possible scenarios by which you still will not have to present: A blackout perhaps? Or maybe all conference attendees got food poisoning at lunch? Or perhaps someone was playing Jumanji in the building and the room you are presenting in was overrun by wild animals and no one dares return!

Acceptance: You arrive, no natural catastrophe of fantasy stampede has occurred and there are, in fact, people there to hear what you have to say. You are introduced and now there is nothing to do but accept what you have done and must do.

Schizophrenia: You begin and realize that this is not actually anything that is really all that challenging. You are surprised that people have, in fact, chuckled at the jokes and seem engaged in what you are saying. Then, suddenly, you realize that you are thinking about the fact that you are presenting at the same time that you are presenting which then makes you worried that you are not saying what you think you are and now there is a third layer of meta going on . . . breathe, present.

Relief and Resale: Presentation over and, suddenly, all is better with the world. “That was a great talk, I can’t thank you enough. We could really use you at our conference, do you think you could present for us in a couple of months?”

“Aw, thanks, I mean, okay, sure” (blush, foot shuffle).

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