Speaking Etiquette

I just read an article on rudeness in using email and how to avoid certain habits. Those made me think of etiquette in speaking. Here are some actions that will help you avoid rudeness and show courtesy by following a few principles of speaking etiquette.

Stay within your time limit. Know ahead of your presentation how long you have to speak and prepare with that time limit in mind. You are rude when you go overtime and infringe on another person’s presentation or business meeting that follows. Even if the person before you went beyond the allotted time, you should help get the program back on track by ending on time.

Let your program chair know you are present as soon as you arrive at the hotel, company facility, or banquet center. One of the biggest fears a program chair has is that the speaker will not show up or get lost or forget. So that phone call or text message is a big relief.

Check the pronunciation of all proper nouns associated with the program. This might be the CEO’s name, a prominent person in the organization, the street or city the organization is located in, or perhaps how the acronym that makes up  the name of the association is pronounced.

As soon as the engagement agreement is firm, give the program chair all the information he/she needs to properly announce and publicize your presentation. This would usually include a digital photograph, a short biography, the title of your presentation, and a brief description of your message. I also send an introduction that can be used by the introducer.

Arrive early and check out the meeting facility. Don’t be afraid to make suggestions if something that can be changed easily will enhance the program. For example, if the lectern is too far away from the audience or is on an unusually high riser, I’ll ask if we can move the lectern to the floor level or ask for extra cord for the microphone so that I can move to floor level. It is difficult to connect with an audience when a great gulf separates you from each other.

You may have heard about the speechwriter who never got cooperation from the senator for whom he was working. The senator often did little to prepare beyond taking the script to the lectern to begin speaking. On one occasion, the state senator stood up before the legislative assembly and began delivering the speech. At the bottom of the page were these words, “I am now going to give you the three points that I think are critical to the passage of this bill.” He turned the page and it was blank except for these words, “I quit. You are on your own!”

Be cooperative by following these suggestions and you will avoid “getting even” time from the person in charge of your presentation.

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at steveboyd111@gmail.com.

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