Sunday, February 26, 2012
He Keeps Going, and Going and Going...
Today in Sacrament Meeting, one of my favorite brethren in the ward gave an amazing talk. It was so good, so right, so inspiring. It was also so long. He started when he was supposed to, but after his designated 10 minutes were up, he went on for an additonal 15. Small enough problem, but he wasn't the concluding speaker: There was yet to be a musical number, and a recently returned missionary. The missionary was wonderful as well, but he suffered from the same "clock-management" issues that the other brother had. All told, we got out of Sacrament Meeting 30 minutes late. I loved the meeting, I loved the speakers, and was filled. But...
Both talks were wonderful, either one would have been great if the brother had been the sole speaker. I believe the Bishop did the right thing by letting them both go and complete their talks. However, it is a problem that I would like to address for a minute. (I'll try and keep it short!)
I am well aware that this is a challenge for many. Even apostles have struggled with this. Any of you that remember Elder LeGrande Richards probably remember his struggles with the clock. Elder David B. Haight talked about Elder Richards speaking in the Tabernacle - at that time they had installed a yellow, then red, warning light to alert the speaker that time was up.
Brother LeGrand Richards, when the light was first installed, said, “Someone’s put a silly light up here.” He said, “I’ll just put my hand over it.” (Link here)
There may not be a light on the pulpit to tell you when to sit down, or an orchestra that will start playing exit music like at the Oscars tonight, but there is plenty of discomfort:
• There is a bishopric nervously shifting in their seats, wondering if they should tap you on the shoulder, skip the closing song, rearrange the remaining schedule, cancel the musical number, etc.
• There are also about 50 Primary, Relief Society, Priesthood, Sunday School, YM and YW teachers who are starting to worry, and wondering how to adjust. Remember, many of these teachers spent as much time preparing their lessons as you did for your talk. Time spent on their knees, time learning, time preparing, and now they find themselves trying to figure out how to cut a 40 minute lesson down to 20 - and still accomplish what they've set out to do.
• There is an entire congregation who is looking at the clock, wondering what's up. I would like to say that we are all so engrossed in what is being said that we lose track of time, but it isn't the case. In my example from today, I WAS engrossed in the talk, and the spirit and power being conveyed, but I did notice the unease around me, as well as the little girl in front of me who kept turning around to look at the clock. Every 30 seconds.
It is really tough to preserve a spiritual environment when you run past the designated time.
I have experienced this problem as a High Council speaker - the junior companion speaker takes most of the time, leaving me the last few minutes to offer a simple testimony and sit down. I don't think that's what the Stake President has in mind when he sends the HC out to the wards.
In our area there was a trend that when a husband and wife were called to speak together, the wife would take most of the time. The husband would have to graciously pocket his talk, bare a quick testimony, and sit down. We eventually abandoned this format, and mixed things up. We found that a sister was much less likely to go over time if the next speaker was not her husband.
I see it as a matter of respect, and/or a matter of experience and skill.
Giving a talk is scary for many people. Preparing one is difficult. Being able to gauge exactly how long your talk is can be very difficult when you are in the middle of giving it.
Here are a few tips:
1) When the bishopric member asks you to speak, ask "How long?"
2) Prepare your talk with that time in mind - don't forget to provide time for an introduction and a testimony at the end. Also, if you are an emotional speaker, build in time for kleenex.
3) When you have you talk written, practice it - with a timer. Multiple times. There are very few speakers out there who can accurately gauge how fast time is moving . (Yes, write it down - even if you don't plan on using the notes.)
4) Make note of the parts of your talk that you can skip, should it be running late.
5) If it is just impossible to fit your talk into the assigned time, put the talk away, save it for another day, and start over.
Remember, even the General Authorities, who speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, write their conference talks in advance. You never see them stand up in conference and "wing it'. Their timing is remarkable. It takes time, and practice.
So, if the phone rings and you get asked to speak, remember...it's not all about you.
Preach, teach, inspire - and end on time!
(PS: If you have been on the receiving end of an endless talk, the proper response is: Thank you for your wonderful talk!)
Labels: sacrament meeting