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.