Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bow Tie & Verbal Diarrhoea

Recently, I attended a formal dinner in a popular hotel in the City. Somehow, formal dinners such as this one is not my kind of thing. I come from a very humble beginning, and although I have gradually crept up the ladder in life, I still can't conquer the formal outfits which are compulsory for formal occasions.

I suppose I can now feel somewhat comfortable in a suit and tie, but so far I have not quite come to terms with the bow tie. Who invented the bow tie anyway? Don't you think it looks silly? I would usually be conscious of the bow tie on me for the first hour of the dinner. If I'm lucky, I might be able to forget all about the tie by the second hour, and hopefully begin to enjoy the party thereafter.

However, that is not the end of the torture. I attended this particular party alone. My wife, Mia, who's also not a big fan of formal functions such as this, had opted out in spite of my wanting her to share the torture with me. I thought perhaps I would feel a little better if my best friend (yes, she is my best friend) were there with me. But nothing would change her mind, you see.

The things she's not very eager to look forward to in a formal function, apart from the fancy dress and the practically-compulsory visit to the hair salon, are the inherent speeches that come along with the occasion. In fact, I dare say that she has a phobia of them! And I, too, am not very different as far as the speeches are concerned.

I told Mia that we had an almost fool-proof schedule for this particular function, of which specific amounts of time to the exact minute have been allocated for the welcoming speech, the roll call, the first few dishes of the night, the acoustic guitar entertainment, the presidential speech etc. I practically dared to guarantee that the time management aspect of the event would be perfect to the dot, because the emcee of the night is someone I knew to have some years of experience in this matter. He had the so-called toastmaster background. But no amount of guarantee could change Mia's mind. So in the end I grudgingly attended the event alone.

As fate would have it, an allocation of 40 minutes was provided for the main speech that night, with a buffer of an additional 5 minutes on top of that. Unless the speech is delivered by someone like Barack Obama, 40 minutes is like eternity to me. But the thing about teamwork is that sometimes we must be prepared to make a bit of sacrifice for the sake of the team. And I was therefore prepared to endure that 40 minutes.

Little did I know that the orator that night suffered some complication of verbal diarrhoea. And so engrossed was he in delivering his speech, that he totally lost track of time, to the extent that he not only used up the entire 40 minutes and the additional 5 minutes thereafter, but he eventually consumed over an hour on the stage! And to add to the suffering, the next person who delivered his speech also exceeded his allocated time by quite some margin. Had Mia been there that night, I think it would have taken her a long time to forgive me!

Later, I found out that the emcee was not to be blamed. He made up the schedule and reminded those delivering speeches that night several times, to stick to the allocated timeframe. Yet that did not help.

There is a lesson to be learned here. Although I have no background in toastmaster, let me say that when delivering speeches where specific amounts of time have been allocated, then time management is paramount! If necessary, rehearse those speeches at home; do what you must, but during the event, stick to the schedule, for goodness sake! For when the speeches become too long, the audience will stop listening and start to grumble. And that surely defeats the purpose of those speeches anyway?

Furthermore, there are repercussions in terms of encroaching into the valuable time of the audience. The mismanagement of time reflects badly not only on the person giving the speech, but also the organiser as a whole.

In retrospect, I'm so glad that Mia was adamant with her decision. I wouldn't have been able to forgive myself for putting her in that situation had she obliged my request for her to accompany me to the event.


kkchai said...

Normally long sleeves batik shirt is an accepted formal dressing at formal fuctions if ties are not your thingy.

Cornelius said...

Yes, kkchai, long sleeves batik shirt is normally an accepted formal wear in Malaysia. But in this particular function, there was a specific dress code, i.e. black suit and bow tie. So I did not really have a choice. It's not like any other formal functions where the dress code is given as "formal wear."

Socrates29 said...

I can understand what you have gone through (the long speeches,one after another).

To me it is akin to a church sermon delivered by the priest or pastor on Sunday church service.

For my church I am glad they stick strictly to time management,always 30 to 40 minutes sometimes interjected with a video or Youtube clip which makes it more interesting.

The best is when once in a while we get someone,a pastor or missonary from another ministry in Kuala Lumpur who really can deliver a very good sermon which can capture the attention and imagination of the church congregation. When this happens, church service is never a dull affair.

Of course nowadays church services are not last yesterdays. We now have a 4 piece band (guitars, organ, drums,etc) providing the accompanying music.In our church we have a group of young ladies dancing in front to liven up things a bit.

Singings are no longer singing from old hymn books but using power point to show the verses on the big screen lcd monitors dirctly above you.

Just to show that similarly,official dinner functions can be made more interesting and enjoyable with some imagination on the part of theorganisers and paying more particular to time management in the speeches part.

Of course, the prompt arrival of the guest of honour is also of importance. I have even attended a wedding dinner reception where the guests arrived more earlier than the bride and groom even though they were both staying in the same hotel venue and the invitation card says "6.30 pm sharp!.

Just my piece for this Saturday weekend.

Cornelius said...


I just want to comment about the part regarding the arrival of guests. I don't know how is the situation in other countries, but I know at least in Malaysia, guests are hardly ever on time. It is quite normal that a buffer of between 30min to 60mins should be allowed under the heading of "guests' arrival". That's just how things are here in Malaysia.

So when we see "6:30pm sharp!", that usually means at 6:30pm sharp guests begin to arrive at the venue, but not necessarily all of them will be there yet.

Tardiness is a kind of disease I guess, so much so that dinner organisers usually make allowances for that! And some people, including me, always deliberately arrive 30 mins later than the supposed starting time, and will still have to wait about 30 mins before the event actually starts.

For a long time, I always made it a point to arrive at the venue "on time", but I have since given up hope!

Socrates29 said...

Like you I also follow (or try to follow) the same rule of arriving at least 30 minutes after the stated time on the invitation card.

I get to thinking wistfully how nice it will be if everybody follows the same rule as us so our event or dinner will starts on time.

In Kota Kinabalu sometimes it is not uncommon for someone to attend 2 functions on the same evening.Some people I know,out of respect to both hosts,try to attend both by going to one first on time and then leave for the second one after sometime.In such a case they can not help it bu arrive late for the second one.

Those at the second function may not know about this and wrongly assumed that they are late comers and blamed them for turning up late for the function.