Falling Asleep on the Speaker
Question: I am frequently invited to attend fundraising dinners and other public affairs at which I find myself a captive audience to some speakers who literally put me to sleep, either because of the late hour or their uninteresting content. What is the right thing to do in such a situation?
Answer: Your question recalls an old joke about a Jew whom the cruel Romans had cast into the coliseum arena to be devoured by a hungry lion. As the bloodthirsty crowd looked on in wonder the condemned Jew whispered something into the lion’s ear, and the ferocious beast surprisingly ran out of the arena. When the survivor was asked what charm he had used to frighten the lion, he replied: "I told him to remember that after the dinner come the speeches!"
Seriously speaking, speaking is a serious business. Some speeches are more interesting to hear than others, but all of them have a purpose, whether it is to introduce the audience to the fine work of the dinner organizers or to honor the individuals who are generous supporters of it. By attending such an affair you are contributing more than just a donation to the cause. You are publicly expressing your identification with it. Just as you are prepared to do so with your time and money you must be prepared to make a strenuous effort to avoid the dozing off which is interpreted by those around you as an expression of apathy.
If this is true in regard to the dinner organizers it is doubly true in regard to the speaker. Falling asleep sends a signal to the speaker looking at you that you have a very low regard for what he has to say and this is terribly discouraging. It also communicates to the people around you a low opinion of the speaker even though this was not your intention.
It may be a good idea to take a short nap before going to an affair in which you will hear speeches so that you can stay awake. Remember, insensitively dozing off may turn you into the “lion” who is unwittingly “devouring” the after-dinner speaker.