Being a history major I have heard the comment that “history is boring” and I cringe. I try to respond with, “no it’s not boring, you were just bored by it”. I would get mixed responses. It annoyed me because to me history is very informative and entertaining and something to be learned from, not to dismiss as unimportant. I know these commenters were not making a personal comment about me, but it was hard not to take it personally since history is a subject near and dear to my heart. I have had the pleasure of delivering a few “bring history to life’ speeches in Toastmasters and heard the refrain of “gee, I wish you had been my history teacher….you actually make it interesting.
I was reminded of these exchanges recently when I heard that word – boring – come up again. It was in a Toastmaster meeting where someone I know to be a good speaker delivered a very bad speech. The evaluator said the speech was boring. He was just saying what probably everyone else was thinking, but were too polite to say. And yet I felt bad for the speaker. I know I would have not wanted to hear that comment and I pondered on why specifically it bothered me.
I realized that beyond being rude and pejorative the word boring is vague and unhelpful. It gives no advice as to how to fix the speech. It is accusative and dismissive without being helpful. And it is very subjective, way beyond the obvious subjectivity of a speech evaluation. The evaluation will be a person’s opinion of the speech presentation, but it should also have some basis in technique.
So what could have been said? First the speech lacked a strong beginning and strong conclusion. There was sort of a call to action but it needed to be stronger. The bulk of the speech was a stream of consciousness ramble that did not progress from point to point, but rather wandered from one experience to the next. It was a collection of memories of a friend that had passed.
There was a lack of audience engagement. There were points that resonated but not enough to hold members attention and they were often left wondering when will this end? This led to a lack of caring for the narrative and thus generated the term boring. The use of the word boring too often reflects badly on the person speaking not the speech, but the evaluation should never focus on the person or the content but rather the delivery.
When discussing openings and closings, focus and flow, and organization and audience engagement, attention can be given to solutions. There is no solution to boring, but these delivery points can be addressed specifically as improvement avenues. A strong beginning, logical flow, and a strong close can keep the audience engaged. This is what is involved in a good evaluation that seeks to help the speaker improve, connected with their audience, and be better the next time.
Saying someone is boring is just discarding them and closing the door to any improvement. It is rejection pure and simple and we should reject the use of the word and delete it from our vocabulary. It is inflammatory, disrespectful, and unworthy of any person.