He had five minutes to speak at an international conference in Abuja back in February this year. He began:
His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCON, MNI…..
His Excellency, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo, GCON, SAN……
He went on and on
And finally he said:
All other protocols duly observed.
Both the President and the Vice President were not there that morning.
But he burnt over two and half minutes of his allotted time saluting them and many others who were not also present.
He was yet to speak to what brought him to the podium.
Not long after, a piece of paper was passed to him. He had one minute to go. He became uncoordinated and stumbled to the end, overshooting his allotted time.
The next speaker came on. He went over similar protocol and stumbled to a finish also outside his time slot.
After a presentation by the head of a department of a Lagos based company, a female director was asked to make her comments and observations. Two minutes into her comments, she had said everything she needed to say. However, she went speaking for another ten minutes rambling and repeating herself until the coordinator of the meeting courteously stopped her and ended the misery of everyone.
The social stage.
Shola went to say hello to a friend, Dotun and was to spend not more than thirty minutes there. As soon as he sat down, Dotun began to talk. He went on and on, jumping from one topic to another. In between he would ask Shola whether he “understands”, a mannerism that Shola just couldn’t put up with because there was nothing to understand.
Dotun talked for a straight one and half hours disregarding Shola’s fake yawns, watch watching and all other shut up and let me get out of here signals.
Call in programs
A listener calls into a live program to make a contribution to an ongoing debate on a national or local issue. He begins by asking the presenter, “how was your night or how was your weekend and engages in other small talks. By the time he gets into the main issue, his one minute is up. Presenter thanks him for calling, a courteous way of saying your time is up, get off the line. But he doesn’t, he keeps yapping until he is rudely yanked off.
Shut up and speak.
“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do”. Thomas Jefferson, former United States President.
Cutting out the fat.
Salutations alone waste participants’ time at international foras in Nigeria. That is why somebody came up with the idea of “standing on existing protocols” if someone else has already established the protocols, usually the first speaker.
What is the essence of reading out the titles acquired by a public officers when delivering a speech. For instance, we know the Vice President is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN. But must every speaker at an event add that title and many others in every mention of the VP’s name? This is just to illustrate how speakers waste their time allotment and prolong public engagements, unnecessarily.
In corporate settings, presenters must tailor their presentations to their time allotments. Similarly, when called upon to comment on a presentation, please make your comment brief and shut up. If you know that you have a mouth that can get loose, write out your comment, read it out and take a bow.
Finally, what is it that turns some people into talking machines when with friends? Is it a ‘congenital disease’ or a mere habit? From my experience, it appears to be the former. Some people are born with the perchant to talk endlessly. But is there a medical cure for it? I don’t think so. So what do you do with loquacious persons who can’t help themselves? It is a big challenge. You can either sit out and endure the punishment or try to wrestle control from them. Neither is easy. If is a one on one discussion, you can deliberately throw in breakers to slow them down or prevent them from providing unnecessary details to a story or change the direction of the discussion altogether.
However, when the setting is a group discussion, one person’s attempt to stop a talking machine becomes an intricate exercise. Others may not take the cue and jump into the discussion. This makes the “saviour” to appear to be a second talking machine. One way out is for the “saviour” to specifically ask another person present to react to what the talking machine has said. In other words, the “saviour” becomes the unofficial coordinator of a social discussion that is supposed to be free flowing
To the talking machine, try and self regulate. Once you realize, I hope you do, that your voice is all that everyone hears most of the time in a discussion, it is time to shut up and allow others to contribute equitably.