May 19, 2009

How Not To Read a Speech

This morning, I attended the funeral of a friend's mother and I had the opportunity to see two speeches, one from a professional and one from a non-professional. The amateur got it right.

The professional (the priest) read his sermon, as well as many other parts of the ceremony. In fact, at times I had the impression that he was on automatic pilot, and was just going through the motions. He made the following mistakes:
  • He rarely looked up. He was very focused on his sheet, reading almost every word and rarely connected with the audience.
  • No vocal intonation. I go to Catholic churches and for the most part, the priests are boring. They all sound the same, display no energy, and no passion. Come on! This is supposed to be your calling in life. This is supposed to be the one thing that makes you happy. At least make it sound that way!
  • He read the script to the letter. At least two or three times, the priest said "he" instead of "she" when speaking of the deceased. I found that highly disrespectful, while also being very impersonal. It gives the impression that he couldn't be bothered to do anything special for this person, that she was just one of many others that pass through his church.
The non-professional read a speech that was written by the daughter of the deceased. This is what she did:
  • She took notes before reading it. I saw her reviewing the text and scribbling something on the sheet. She didn't just get up and read it, at least she was familiar with the text before standing in front of the audience.
  • She spoke slowly, paused, and put some life in her voice. She acted as though she was delivering the message for her friend instead of just reading words on a sheet.
  • She connected and it showed. She took the time to look up between sentences and establishing eye contact with the people in the first row. When I looked around the church, I could see that that crowd reacted much more during her three minute speech than they did for the entire duration of the priest's performance.
I abhor speeches that are read, but sometimes you have no choice but to read a speech. There is a right way, and a wrong way to do it. In this case, don't act like a professional!

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