Long, boring speeches should be made illegal

Sleeping woman

In official functions you have to pretend to be attentive and interested long after your attention span went South.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Woe unto you if the speech-maker is one of those people that are fond of repeating themselves and are unconscious of time.
  • I have realised that these are also the people that either ignore non-verbal cues signifying boredom or restlessness, or choose to ignore them.

I come from an extended family that is fond of making speeches. Every occasion, whatever the occasion is, is viewed as an opportunity to make a speech such that a casual gathering quickly becomes official, or in worse cases, like a political rally.

Being a person of a few words, someone who abhors belabouring the point, and being someone who prefers things to move along in haste so that we can move on to the next task at hand, I find the speech making highly tedious. But since I am part of the family, I always feel obligated to play along, to give a speech of my own when my turn comes, although I have to point out that I am usually at pains to make it as brief as possible.

The most recent occasion was during a niece’s birthday party. The invitees were made up of immediate family and a handful of friends, therefore we all knew each other.

Having socialised and eaten to our fill, it was finally time to do what had brought us all together. Sing happy birthday and eat the cake. But, of course, that wasn’t going to happen until everyone present had “said something.” We all ended up introducing ourselves, never mind that we all knew each other. The children too were also asked to “say something”.

We ended up partaking of the cake an hour later because there are those relatives that enjoy talking more than others. By then, the birthday girl and the other children in attendance were on the verge of tears, wondering when they would finally get to eat the tasty-looking cake propped on the table. Talk of a case of so near, yet so far.

Unconscious of time

This formality is something that we often joke about, but no matter how much I protest, the same thing keeps happening whenever we congregate, which is several times a year. The only saving grace, where such never-ending speeches are concerned, is that you can afford to show your exasperation and impatience when in the presence of family, I mean, there isn’t much they can do to you save for giving your nasty looks. I have even been known to doze off in the midst of a particularly lengthy speech.

In public places, however, it’s a different ball game altogether, especially if you’re attending an official function. You have to pretend to be attentive and interested long after your attention span went South. Woe unto you if the speech-maker is one of those people that are fond of repeating themselves and are unconscious of time.

I have realised that these are also the people that either ignore non-verbal cues signifying boredom or restlessness, or choose to ignore them. They are also the ones that are generously given five minutes to speak but end up taking an hour, having refused to hand over the mic to the emcee hovering behind them.

Then there are hosts whose idea of entertaining their guests is forcing them to listen to what they have to say, never giving them the chance to contribute to the monologue. And since they are guests and don’t want to appear rude, they sit there and listen with strained obligatory smiles on their faces. It’s akin to being held hostage. This behaviour, I have observed, is common among people in power. 

The writer is editor, Society & Magazines, Daily Nation. Email: [email protected] ke.nationmedia.com

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