Lecturers learn by experience that the chairman question may become at
times a very trying problem.
Many a meeting has been spoiled by an impossible chairman, and the
lecturer who wishes to have his work produce the best result will always
keep a keen eye on the chair, though, of course, he should not appear to
The functions of the chairman are mainly two: To introduce the speaker,
and to decide points of procedure. The latter function is only necessary
in delegate gatherings where all present have the right to participate.
The former applies where a speaker is visiting a town and is a stranger
to many in his audience.
In this case, when the chairman has told the audience who the speaker
is, where he comes from, what his subject will be, the occasion and
auspices of the meeting, his work is done, and the chairman who at this
point leaves the platform and takes a seat in the front row, should be
presented with a medal of unalloyed gold and his name should be recorded
in the municipal archives as an example to the lecture chairmen of
How often has one seen a chairman during the lecture, conscious that he
is in full view of the audience, crossing his legs, first one way, then
the other, trying a dozen different ways of disposing of his hands with
becoming grace, fumbling with his watch chain, looking at his watch as
if the speaker had already overstepped his time, looking nervously at
his program as if something of enormous importance had been forgotten,
and doing a dozen similar things, most of them unconsciously, but none
the less continuously diverting the attention of the audience from the
speaker and his speech.
How pleasantly do I recall the chairman who came to my hotel and asked
me to write him a two-minute speech, which he committed to memory, but
promptly forgot before a crowded opera house and substituted for it,
"Mr. Lewis of San Francisco will now address you," and disappeared in
the wings. The fates be kind to him! He was the prince of chairmen.
I spoke on one occasion in a large city to a good audience at a well
advertised meeting on the Moyer-Haywood-Pettibone question. I had for
chairman a local speaker, who, fascinated by so fine an audience, spoke
over thirty minutes in this style: "Mr. Lewis will tell you how these
men were kidnapped in Denver; he will tell you how the railroads
provided a special train free of charge; he will tell you," etc., until
he had mentioned about all that was known of the case at that time. The
fact that we had a good meeting and took up a big collection for the
defense fund was no fault of his.
Another chairman I shall ever remember is the one who closed a rambling
speech with the following terse remarks: "You have all heard of the
speaker, you have seen his name in our papers; he has a national
reputation. I will now call upon him to make good."
Fortunately, most inexperienced chairmen seek the speaker's advice and
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