Story time 9: contents under pressure

River 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.

5 thoughts on “Story time 9: contents under pressure

  1. Natasha Schleich

    I have only just begun reading – to my great pleasure – this blog site. As graduate school trained anthropologist working in the marketing research industry, it’s exactly what I need!
    This post is particularly relevant. I, too, have a client presentation on Monday at 3:00 PM and I am sitting here in the office at 1:00 AM (Saturday morning now) loading the third out of about nine hours of “ethnographic marketing research video” onto the computer hoping that the elusive BFI will somehow hit me square between the eyes sometime in the next 48 hours as I try and wade through the thick data towards a succinct PowerPoint presentation offering clearly articulated, actionable recommendations.

  2. Grant

    Natasha, thanks very nuch, hope the clouds part and the heavens open. Sometime Last night I figured out where I have to be and how to do this I think. So I am feeling a little less paniced. But of course sometimes my revelations prove under closer scrutiny to come apart like a cheap suit. So there will be a certain amount of drama all weekend long. Best, Grant

  3. Daniel Rosenblatt

    Good luck, Grant (and you too, Natasha) especially with the part about taking them somewhere they don’t want to go (or don’t know how to go). The more I teach, the more I think about that sort of thing, but thankfully for me the line between success and failure isn’t as sharp in the academic world.

  4. Peter

    Just want to wish you good luck with it all!
    I’m sure you’ll manage, and… somehow somewhere everything always seem to land on its feet anyway.

    And if not: remember the old ‘academic’ adagio: “if you can’t convince them with science, blind them with bullshit.”

    As daunting as wading through piles of research data can be, in the end the enjoyment of being able to your listeners (and readers) into new directions must be quite fullfilling.
    Basically that is a little thank you for some insightful writings!

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