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It’s not just me, is it?

The 35 Stages of Creating a Conference Talk

You may well have heard of the five stages of grief, well in this blog post we’re going to cover the 5 stages of creating a conference talk. And then 30 more.

Before these five stages comes a crucial first step. It’s the one where you see a conference CFP, and you’re already at least 1.5 gin & tonics in because it’s 7 pm on a Saturday (or Tuesday, whatever). Before you know what has happened, you’ve come up with a suitably smart-sounding talk title and abstract, and you’ve submitted it grinning to yourself at your play on words. Then you get on with your evening and forget about it. You forget about it until, with a bit of luck, you get an email six weeks later that says something like, “Congratulations! Your talk has been accepted at <insert conference name here>.”

You cast your mind back to that Saturday night, but your memory is hazy. Still, it seems like a good idea, all you have to do is write the talk; the idea was the hard part! So you graciously accept the invite because it’s eight weeks away and then… read on.

Actual timelines may vary – not to be used as a project management tool unless you’re me.

Stage one – Denial

T-8 weeks, I bury my head in the sand and pretend that I didn’t just say yes to a conference that’s in eight weeks for a talk that I haven’t yet written.

Stage two – Anger

T-7 weeks, I start asking myself questions such as:

  • Why did I say yes to this? What was I thinking?!
  • This is stupid; I don’t want to do this/I can’t do this!
  • I’m never submitting to a CFP again, ever.

Stage three – Bargaining

T-6 weeks, I wonder what the impact would be on my sanity and brand might be if I email the conference and say something like:

I’m sorry I can no longer make the conference because <insert suitable excuse here that clearly isn’t even true>

Don’t do this. It’s okay to think it though!

Stage four – Depression

T-5 weeks, I can’t lie, it’s not right. I have backed myself into a corner and now I have to write this (stupid) talk.

Stage five – Acceptance

T-4 weeks, FINE I’ll write the talk! This is usually when I start writing the talk itself rather than just putting notes together. However, there’s more to acceptance than meets the eye. For me this step can be broken down into 30 separate steps (yes, 30)!

  1. Write content
  2. Decide content is crap
  3. Write different content
  4. Realise initial content wasn’t that crap
  5. Tweak content
  6. Decide whole talk is crap
  7. Briefly revisit stage three
  8. Force self to write more talk
  9. Decide whole talk is crap
  10. Give talk to brick wall
  11. Consider talk might not be crap
  12. Rework talk
  13. Decide whole talk is crap
  14. Give talk to friendly face
  15. Accept whole talk isn’t crap, mostly
  16. Incorporate feedback
  17. Realise talk doesn’t match the brief you submitted
  18. Decide brief was crap, revisit stage two
  19. Overhaul talk and make it pretty
  20. Give talk to more friendly faces
  21. Incorporate feedback
  22. Practice talk
  23. Practice talk
  24. Practice talk
  25. Practice talk
  26. Practice talk
  27. Practice talk
  28. Give talk
  29. Decide whole talk wasn’t crap
  30. Vow never to do this again, until the next time

It’s not just me, is it? Hope to see you there!