Monday, January 16, 2012

"How do I help a dying friend with a speech about her life and illness?"

Readers, today we need your help for a fellow reader and speaker coach who has written to me with a speech challenge unlike any she has faced before. Here is what she wrote:
I have been given a tough assignment. A good friend is terminally ill. She's smart, gentle, warm and quiet. She's not a speaker, and she's the wisest and kindest person I know. She's still up and about but may not be for long. She has asked me to help her with a speech for a big fundraiser. I've done tough things before,  and if she weren't my friend I could laugh. Black humour, irreverence...they are all tools to help make an unbearable subject bearable. But my sadness and our attachment are blocking my ability to think clearly about how to help her prepare - let alone write the script. I'll find a way to ensure my feelings don't overshadow our prep for this gig  - I want it to be her triumph. If you or anyone else have any tips or experience to help me navigate this particularly tricky professional path, I'd be most grateful.
Have you had to help a friend in this situation, or given this kind of speech yourself? What advice, tips or experiences do you have that will help this fellow reader coach her friend and write the speech of a lifetime? Can you point us to examples of other speakers facing the same situation? Please share your ideas and help in the comments.

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Janice said...

Hope this short clip of Virginia Greene helps - it is a very short version of her presentation (intertwined with a PSA filmed later) at an Ovarian Cancer awareness event (in her honour) held in Vancouver over a year ago:

Virginia Greene was a force to behold in our community and who sadly passed away not long after the event. I watched and listened to her speak many times and she was a no-holds barred, spitfire of a women who also had a lovely big heart.

Interestingly, in looking over the clip she appeared very robust but I remember thinking at the time she was a shadow of herself.

I think the women who is requesting help in how best to serve her friend has answered her own question - not to let her own feelings get in the way. Simply let her dear friend shine...her friend will guide her - as her coach and friend she just needs to be there for support.

Jill Foster said...

Thanks for the invitation to contribute like this to your reader. Is the fundraiser raising monies to find a cure for her particular illness? I'm working with that assumption here. The partnership between vulnerability and conviction comes to mind. As in: even in our most fragile or precarious moments, we have the chance to stand up to the larger battle in some way. There are no guarantees that cures will come in time for our unique purposes. But the chance to research a cure for those yet to be diagnosed is still within our reach if resolve stays on course by the greater team, researchers, volunteers, advocates. The cause still deserves attention. She can build off that truth openly and let it be context to the greater need to hold steadfast even in the face of loss. ....sprinkled with a few Seinfeld jokes if at all possible. But now I'm deflecting my own emotion. Blessings to her and her voice.

Denise Graveline said...

Janice and Jill, thank you for sharing these leads and ideas. Our fellow coach emailed this message to me, which says it all: "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you Denise. It is such a relief to have help."

Now, let's hope more readers can share their tips and experiences, just as you have. Thank you!

S larisey said...

As you well know, I'm no speaker,but what about Randy Pausch's Last Lecture...Carnegie Mellon 9/18/2007. Honesty and humor in the face of the inevitable.