It was my lot yesterday to travel into central London in order to attend the annual lunch of an esteemed organisation with friends in high places. The venue was ancient, sophisticated and impressive and the lunch excellent in both quality and service for such a number. Many of those attending, all eminent men, had a career in common those this was unconnected with the purpose of the organisation in question.
I had been unaware in advance that there was to be a guest speaker – yet another distinguished individual whom I did not know and had never set eyes upon previously.
At the appropriate moment – just as the desserts were being served, it being explained that time was relatively short if we were all to get away by our advertised time – he was introduced and spoke for about twenty minutes before taking a few questions.
In all, I should estimate, I did not hear more than about 40% of what he said.
This was caused by a combination of his slightly ‘softer than ideal’ voice, his lack of projection and the fact that the assembled were all sitting at as long and thin refectory-style table of which I and those around me were down at the extremity of one end.
Although our speaker did swing his head slowly around the room from time to time as he spoke it was damned difficult to catch more than a hint of his pearls of wisdom [and here to use a garden hose analogy to make my point] whenever he was aiming his nozzle directly out in front of him and/or indeed in the direction of the extremity at the other end of the table.
Whilst not exactly frustrated afterwards – I’m not sure in this case that I was that especially interested in his topic de jour – it does sometimes make me wonder why people who are going to invite a guest speaker – or indeed accept an invitation to be one – don’t think such straightforward practical issues through properly in advance and (for example) accordingly speak louder, project better, or simply use a microphone.