IF you make a lot of presentations, you will soon come across the chairman, that figure of authority at many conferences and seminars.
They are not innocuous and can cause many snags for us speakers.
It would seem a fairly harmless, uncomplicated task to introduce speakers then let them talk; thank them when they have had their say, fence a few questions and answers then introduce the next orator, and so on through the programme.
But some chairmen (and they are mostly men) seem destined to mess up even that. Like when they introduce you.
I usually bill myself as a consultant in public health and dentist. But even though I wrote it out in 16 point bold type, one short-sighted chairman managed to introduce me as a consultant in pubic health and a dense tit!
Never leave the chairman to write his own introduction for you. I was once welcomed to the podium while the chairman told the audience how I had written for television comedians (true) and how funny I was going to be today (false, I was there to give a deadly serious talk).
The look of disappointment on the faces of the audience as I ploughed on has haunted me ever since.
Occasionally the chairman gets his comeuppance. I was on the speaker’s panel when a famous female raconteur was called to the lectern. It was obvious to all of us except the chairman that she had mislaid her notes.
As she frantically emptied her handbag of all its contents, the chairman made to lighten the tension by joking with her, saying: “Why didn’t you bring the dining room table with you as well?” and pointing to the growing pile of handbag contents.
Witheringly, she replied: “I wish I had. That’s where my speech is.”
Sometimes you feel sorry for the chairman. I did once because he had a speech impediment, though I never understood how he had got the part.
He was introducing a pious- looking medical missionary who had just returned from decades in the jungle and he meant to praise the role of the man’s wife by saying what a boon she had been to him in the wild.
But all he could manage was “for 40 years his wife was a baboon to him ...”.
They may have had a swinging time on the mission but I doubt they had much monkey business.
Former doctor, dentist and comedy writer Dr Ray Lowry is a Tyneside-based after-dinner speaker and coaches presentation skills