Story time is usually a chance to recount some telling episode from the ethnographic notebook, and show the anthropologist-as-marketer in the field. And I was working on something along these lines when suddenly I thought to myself, "Hey, this is not the story. The story is the feeling in the pit of your stomach."
By the end of Sunday night, I have to have a flawless presentation in hand. I present Monday at 3:00. It has to be perfect. There is tons of data, collected in Philadelphia, Dallas and Atlanta in August. The task is a species of product development I haven’t done before. The pressure is mounting. The anthropologist is up against it.
My results are taking shape nicely. I won’t go in empty handed. But every project begins with the dread that this will go badly. This time I’ll come up empty. At some point, the BFI emerges (first word: big; second word: insight.) The relief is palpable. You start on the presentation and at some point, you think, "got it, I could go with it." More relief. Now, you’re fine.
On the present project, I have my BFI, but it will take all weekend to turn it into a compelling presentation. The client is plenty smart enough but I want to take them places I do not think they want to go. Perfect clarity is called for. A deft feeling for when to insist and when to pull back, this would also be a good idea. The trouble is that some of the insights and all of the presentation in this project emerge only from steady application. Are the remaining two days really enough time? I tend to sleep badly under this kind of pressure and that means two nights of low grade sleep. It’s going to be a long weekend. If only it were not so short.
This is the consultant’s life: the darker side of the happy, lucky, one hopes, funny stories one would like to tell. Some day we’ll laugh and laugh. Just not this weekend.