I’ve been doing some talks lately, and after speaking at last nights Behance Portfolio Review I thought I would put this together (or more specifically, after nervously spacing out before it was my turn to speak, this occurred to me). I should preface it with the fact that I quite enjoy doing talks, and this is just meant to be a light-hearted take on the seven stages of grief - don’t let this scare you into turning down a fun opportunity to speak to your peers!
The Seven Stages of Constructing a Talk
Shock and Disbelief The initial reaction when being asked to come speak at an event, so long as it’s not in your parents basement, is shock and disbelief. The idea that someone thinks you have so much to say that people will want to just sit and listen intently for an hour seems a bit far fetched. Though seemingly unreal, the speaker basks in this idea, generally with excitement, before moving on to the next stage.
Denial Denial is a stage that lasts for a short time in most cases. People at this stage refuse to believe the reality of the situation. Rather, they tend to disregard the facts - their qualifications and accomplishments in the field - and disbelieve the information, claiming that it is an unreliable source, or that someone has been misled about who they are and what they do.
Bargaining As the speaker begins to put their talk together, and the gravity of the situation sets in, so does the bargaining stage. After many failed attempts at coming up with something poignant and novel to say, and ultimately decided that they don’t in fact have anything to excite their listeners with, the speaker starts to bargain. “Perhaps a smaller venue?” or “Maybe I could just introduce everyone” are comments that often characterize this stage.
Guilt Guilt often overlaps with the bargaining stage. At this stage of the presentation design, the speaker begins to blame themselves, citing their own short comings as the reason an interesting topic is not apparent. They are overcome with guilt at the prospect that their thoughts and comments will bore the audience, and waste their time. Often times this guilt is compounded at the idea of taking up another, more interesting speakers place.
Anger This stage is generally initiated by some sort of catalyst; be it a poor rehearsal, an uncooperative animation, or the conclusion that a new concept needs to be pursued. Then the speaker begins to feel anger, which tends to be directed inwardly. The speaker is angry with themselves for overcommitting, and not setting enough time aside to prepare. Or they are angry at themselves at all of the time that they have taken away from other projects, in order to prepare the talk. On some occasions both sentiments are felt, which only serves to catapult the speaker to the next stage.
Depression Though it culminates at this stage, depression is not a stand alone stage in building a talk. It is likely to resurface or appear throughout the entire process. The depression stage arrives when the speaker is convinced that they have tried all of their ideas, and despite the fast approaching deadline, are certain that none will sufficiently entertain the audience. The speaker becomes defeatist as they see no remedy to their current predicament.
Acceptance and Hope Finally, the speaker reaches acceptance and hope. Whichever pitch they were working on when they passed some temporal threshold is accepted as the talk to be delivered. As they rehearse and grow their confidence in the script or subject matter, hope begins to blossom. Not only is the speaker hopeful of a generally positive outcome, but once the slides are solidified, and they become more self-assured, they begin to believe that there *is* hope.
(But then, it goes just fine, and the speaker feels silly for stressing so much)