Occasionally a guest speaker is invited to speak at some church or conference gathering. How should he be treated, and how should he be introduced?
First of all, the speaker should have prior information as to the nature of the meeting and what is expected of him. He should also know the time and place of the meeting. If he arrives by train, plane, or bus, someone should meet him and provide transportation to the church or campground. Should overnight accommodations be necessary, care should be exercised that he does not stay with some family that delights in "talking his ears off" into the week hours of the morning. There is no surer way of presenting a washedout preacher at the next day's service.
The service itself should be well organized in advance. It is disconcerting for the speaker to arrive on time only to discover that the meeting is disorganized, the presiding officer unable to find those who are to assist in the service, the rostrum chairs are not in place, the auditorium not heated or ventilated, and the choir late in taking in the choir loft.
Worse still, while the elder or presiding officer rushes around trying to bring order out of chaos, someone with an ax to grind belabors the speaker with some real or imagined grievance. All this tends to make the guest frayed and worn out before he speaks, often resulting in a flat and insipid presentation. This frustrating experience can be avoided by careful preparation and organization.
In presenting the guest the chairman of the meeting should make sure that he has the proper facts about the speaker. At times it is better to place such facts in the church bulletin. In either case, the facts should be accurate. A few well-chosen statements are sufficient. Every book written, every degree obtained, and every office held need not be listed. If the guest did not have the necessary qualifications, he would not be there to speak.
Care should be taken in relating anecdotes, especially those involving the speaker. Many times such are not appropriate to the theme, the occasion, or the speaker. The one introducing the speaker can be pleasant without palaver, brief without disrespect.
The speaker's time should be protected. It is unfair to him and the audience when a long session precedes the address. What speaker has not watched the clock tick off the best part of the speaking hour while listening to a prolonged musical program or lengthy announcements. Equally frustrating and destructive of a speaker's time at camp meetings are the blow-by-blow instructions on how to take care of tents in a storm or how to find lost children.
It is agonizing for a speaker to hear the chairman say: "I am sorry that we have used up so much time discussing these items, but we want our speaker to feel at ease and take all the time he needs to present his subject. Ladies and gentlemen, I take pleasure in presenting . . ." By this time the audience is tired, the children are fidgety, and infants are crying for their dinner. Upon being presented so late the speaker is tempted to simply say, "My address for this morning is 6849 Eastern Avenue, Washington, D.C.," and sit down!
A person is invited to speak because it is assumed he has something to say. That opportunity should be granted him without his laboring under pressure of time and tiredness of mind. Then what is said can be a blessing. No one should rob the audience of the latter.
Thedodore Carcich was vice-president of the General Conference when he wrote this article.