Recently I posted ideas for developing anecdotes to share at Eagle courts of honor. As I said in that post, effective anecdotes can help you create a compelling, 3-D portrait of your honoree, showing that he’s more than a sum of badges earned and service projects completed.
The ideas in that post are useful if you’re the one telling the anecdote. But what if you’re the ceremony planner or master of ceremonies? Besides sharing that post with people you invite (or grudgingly allow!) to speak, what else can you do?
The first thing to do is lay down clear ground rules. Don’t just have an open-mic session where anyone can come up and say anything they want. Instead, encourage–or require–each speaker to write at least an outline of the story they want to tell. And keep the emphasis on the story; someone who can’t settle on a single story will likely tell one pretty good story and two that are pretty pointless.
If you worry about longwindeness, give people a time limit. In terms of word count, speakers generally talk at a speed of 125 or 150 words per minute, a rule of thumb that can help people plan their remarks.
If you are selecting speakers ahead of time, consider asking each of them to cover one particular aspect of the Scout’s life, such as his days as a new Scout, his experience at Philmont, his service as senior patrol leader, and his Eagle project. By assigning topics, you ensure that the stories won’t overlap.
If you offer an open-mic opportunity, consider limiting the total number of speakers. It’s a good idea to announce at the start of the ceremony that people will have the opportunity to tell stories so they can think ahead. And it’s definitely a good idea for the emcee to hover nearby as people speak, making it easier to subtly cut them off if they get long-winded.
Finally, consider creating a memory box or album where guests who don’t want to speak during the ceremony can write their stories. Some people are more comfortable sharing their memories this way–and the stories they tell may well stay with the honoree longer.
For more ideas, check out my new ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from EagleBook.com and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download.