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“Gone With The Wind” Should Remain A Book Title, Not What Happens To A Speech©
By Art Samansky

Speakers, from politicians, law enforcement officials, and business leaders to religious leaders and educators, are often required to make remarks outdoors, at campaign stops, the steps of legislative buildings, press briefings at the site of a disaster, ribbon cuttings, college commencement exercises, and myriad other sites.

But outdoor venues are fraught with weather-related dangers for a speaker, ranging from sudden gusts of wind, or sustained wind, to rain and snow. For those preparing outdoor speeches, a few special steps can be taken to help the speaker avoid embarrassment and alleviate potential difficulty in speech-delivery.

To protect against wind-borne problems, consider these steps.

  • Remarks should be printed on 67-pound, or preferably 110-pound paper if available (standard multi-purpose office-printer paper is 24-pound.) The heavier “weights” make the text page easy for the speaker to “flip,” while simultaneously making it less likely that a sudden gust of wind, or even a constant breeze, will cause the pages to flap around in the speaker’s hands or on the podium/lectern. Or, even worse, literally blow off the podium/lectern.
  • Place the remarks in a three-ring (or other multi-ring) binder, preferably one that is pale or colorless to avoid the binder becoming an eye-focus point by the audience. The focus should be on the speaker. (Indoors, the remarks shouldn’t be held in place by binder-rings, but should be loose, enabling the speaker to slide the completed page either left or right. If pages fall from the podium while being moved to the side there’s no harm as they have already been read. Depending upon circumstances, they can be left on the platform or picked up after the speaker concludes.)
  • If possible, print the remarks front and back, and start the opening remarks on page 2 (page 1 serving as the title page) and providing the speaker with a two-page spread of the remarks throughout—until possibly the last page. (Indoors, remarks should always be printed only on one side. Speakers should never turn pages over.)
  • Number all pages; it may be a “belt and suspenders” approach, but it does guard against a variety of unanticipated missteps, from the binder accidentally being dropped and opening— allowing the pages to fall loosely—to the speaker inadvertently flipping more than one page at a time.

To protect against rain/snow-caused problems, consider these measures.

  • If time, equipment and speaker-traits permit, laminate the pages using a non-glare “matte” finish. (If pages are laminated, paper “weight” no longer is as an important issue.) However, some speakers pencil-in text changes up to the moment of delivery; in those cases, lamination isn’t an option.
  • If lamination isn’t possible, enclose the pages in non-glare vinyl page-protectors, using the heavier “weight” paper.
  • Be certain the open side of vinyl protector faces toward the binder-rings, making it harder for wind-blown rain to reach the paper on which the text is printed, and prevent the wind from “grabbing” the page and flipping it. Some page-protectors, enabling pages to be inserted from the top, have built-in strips with ring-holes already in place.

In her classic novel, cited in the headline of this article, Margaret Mitchell closes with her character, Scarlett O’Hara, assuredly saying, “…tomorrow is another day.” That might have worked for Scarlett. But, there are no tomorrows for today’s speech.