Brief for Omar Khayyam Club speeches

Note. If contributors are unsure how long their talk will last, they can do a simple calculation: divide the total word count by 120. The answer will be the rough duration in minutes.

Justification

The speech

Prospective members outline why they are eligible to become full members of the Omar Khayyam Club.

Successful ones

They need to demonstrate a firm grasp of the Club’s ethos (as outlined in the short introduction to the Club, above). They may also wish to show some familiarity with Omar Khayyam, Edward Fitzgerald and the rubaiyat. The speeches that work well are amusing and brief.

When they work less well

Less successful speeches mistake this exercise as a test of their achievements to date or their competence (the opposite is generally preferred), and go on too long.

Duration

Guide: 3 mins

Absolute maximum: 5 mins

Poem

Written specially for each Dinner and printed on the Menu.

Drawing

Or artwork, created specially for each Dinner and providing the menu decoration.

The Fitz

The speech

The task is to talk interestingly about some aspect of Omar Khayyam and/or Edward Fitzgerald, for instance his life, the Rubaiyat, his other works, his friends.

Previous subjects have included….

2007: John Ranelagh on the differences between Fitz’s adaptation of the Rubaiyat vs Heath-Stubbs’.

1992: Jamie Priestley on Fitzgerald’s attitude to politics. The evening took place on the day of a general election.

Note that the speech ends with the speech maker proposing a toast to “The Master”. All stand.

Successful ones

This is the scholarly part of the evening which – at best – sheds new light on Fitzgerald and the rubaiyat. The Fitz can be fascinating and entertaining. And the best ones end while the audience is still interested.

When they work less well

The Fitz suffers when the speech giver does not edit the good research he has undertaken. Many Fitz speeches go on far too long.

Duration

Guide: 10 mins

Absolute maximum: 15 mins

Guests

The speech

The aim is to poke benign fun at each of the guests in turn.

Note that the speech ends with the speech maker proposing a toast to the guests. The members stand while the guests remain seated.

Successful ones

They walk a tightrope between being too kind and being too critical. The audience needs to understand why each guest is deeply flawed, but no critique should cause discomfort. The purpose of the speech is to embrace the unfortunate guests, not exclude them, still less offend them.

When they work less well

The speech maker falls off the tightrope and/or dwells too long on one or more of the guests. ‘Too long’ depends on the subjective view of the audience, to which the speech maker needs to be sensitive.

Duration

Guide: about a minute per guest

Absolute maximum: this will depend on the number of guests of course. This speech should last 15 minutes at the most. Preferably less.

Response

The speech

This is the response of one guest to the speech which has just been made about the guests. He talks on behalf of all of them.

Note that the speech giver traditionally proposes a toast to the members. The guests stand while the members remain seated.

Successful ones

The guest making this speech can either suggest that the guests richly deserve the purgation they have just endured, or he can exact revenge by gently tweaking the Club’s tail. The best versions of this speech are gracious and funny, and are given in the spirit the evening has been trying to achieve: convivial and amusing.

When they work less well

This speech is less successful when it goes on too long.

Duration

Guide: 2-3 mins

Absolute maximum: 5 mins