Public speakers who are offended by shoddy introductions, even erroneous ones, must get over it, or find another line of work. In some cases, there are as many errors interspersed into introductory material as there are in the speeches that follow!
I committed my first public speech 50 years ago to the three members of the graduating class of London High School. It disbanded a few months later, but the superintendent assured me that it had nothing to do with anything I had said.
I was somewhat relieved. Only a few years older than the graduates, I doubt that I had much to say. I wasn’t well-traveled, lacked experience and was trudging along in my second year as a college senior.
In the intervening years, I’ve been at lecterns several thousand times. About everything that could happen has. During long-ago remarks at a funeral, an attendee keeled over dead. At a banquet for football officials, one of them tripped over a table leg, sending a dozen plates of food floorward — just before a punch line, I might add. I’ve spoken during cloudbursts at outdoor graduations, and watched a dozen or more volunteer firepersons drop their dinner forks before racing out to respond to the wailing siren.
The world doesn’t stop because a person is speaking.
Murphy’s law is in play. Whatever can happen eventually does.
The late Dr. Guy D. Newman, my president during college years, loved to tell the story about a chapel speaker from Ohio, who’d made it big in oil, amassing “millions of dollars.”
Before beginning his remarks, the speaker felt he should clarify parts of the introduction.
“I’m not from Ohio, I’m from Pennsylvania,” he corrected. “And the business is actually natural gas, not oil. Further, it’s my brother, not me, and instead of making millions of dollars he lost millions.”… If it’s close enough for government work, well….
A long-time minister-educator, Dr. Jimmie Nelson, keenly remembers an introduction that “covered the waterfront” prior to his speaking in Trinidad, West Indies. He calls it “the best introduction I ever received.”
The pastor of the Sixth Company Baptist Church, eager to address Dr. Nelson properly, laid these titles on him, in succession: “Reverend, Doctor, Professor, Pastor, Brother Nelson.”
“Fun” dialog often comes across TV airwaves. Last year, a young sportscaster on a West Texas television station, perhaps an intern or part-timer, provided this introductory “teaser” for the upcoming sports segment.
“In major league baseball today, New York beat Boston, three points to one point; Cleveland bested Baltimore, 11 points to two points, and Texas scored a win over Oakland, one point to no points. Details follow this commercial break.”
The point is, of course, that tallies in baseball, at any level, aren’t called “points.”
Our preacher made a strong introductory statement at worship recently. Following special music, he urged us to “live what we sing.”
I’m not sure the exact wording he chose for the other two services, both of which are contemporary, with most choruses repeated a few times.
Maybe he said, “We should live what we sing. We should live what we sing. We should live what we sing. We should live what we sing.”
As a senior adult who still gets around the state for speaking engagements, introductory flubs are regarded as minutiae. During an introduction at a dinner for senior adults recently, the introducer presented a few facts, then gave me a blank look during a long, silent pause.
She couldn’t think of my name, finally blurting, “Well, you know who it is!”
I thought of making some kind of clever come-back, but I couldn’t think of her name!
Hey, senior adults are forgiven their senior moments.
Sometimes responses following speeches can be priceless. In the early 1960’s, I was invited to address the Presidio, Texas, Lions Club, some 80 miles from Alpine, where I was an instructor at Sul Ross State University.
It was a small club, and most of the members were bi-lingual in the little town on the Mexican border, near Big Bend National Park. Their English was better than my Spanish, which is limited to a dozen words or so.
Following my remarks, the club president, thanked me, smiling as he said, “I’m pretty sure we all enjoyed that.”
Dr. Don Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. He may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com. His website is www.speakerdoc.com. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org