The More Speakers, the More Adjusting

When I see that several others are going to “say a few words,” I’m always in the “changing direction” mode with my presentation. The axiom that I have learned in my four decades of speaking is that the more people involved in the program where I am the main speaker, the more complicated the program becomes. To keep the program going well, I have to listen carefully to what everyone else is saying and keep track of the events on the program.

For example, recently when I was conducting a funeral service, about ten minutes before it began I happened to learn that there would be three additional parts to the service.

To begin, the funeral director stepped up to the microphone and announced that I would lead a prayer. He decided that on his own. That was not the plan. But since he announced it, I led a prayer.

On my way to the lectern, I quickly analyzed how I would let the others on the program know how this would change the remainder of the service after I finished the prayer. What I did was to announce publicly what would happen, which also told the singers and the leader when they were to sing. Of course the audience just assumed I was giving a preview.

I did not know until just prior to the service that a close friend would deliver the eulogy. He did an excellent job. The problem for me was that he included several points that I planned to cover. So as I listened, I was revising my thoughts to avoid needless repetition. I was also sensitive to the length of the service as I got up to speak.

Fortunately, I had prepared carefully and knew my material well. My familiarity with the material allowed me to make adjustments as I spoke. Everything went pretty smoothly and no one knew about the adjustments during the service.

 When you have other speakers in the program besides you and the introducer, prepare for the unexpected. Learn to adapt and revise as the speaking event unfolds. Be forever alert!


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

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