Thirty or so years ago, Tim Sample and I were setting up for a show at the Portland Family Festival in Deering Oaks. The sound man gave us enough volume to deafen anyone in the front three rows, but Tim said to crank her up two more notches.

Tim gave me my first lesson on how to keep people in the back row from dozing off, and it amounted to this: “What availeth it a man to be bright, witty and articulate, and then stand before the multitudes and swallow the punch line to a story?”

My friend Richard says that his grandmother was so frugal that she even spoke while inhaling, so’s not to waste any breath. You’ve heard people suck, “Eyah” into their lungs and know what we’re talking about here.

What do you do when you are trapped in an audience and then discover that the person behind the mike continues to move his or her lips while inhaling? The speaker might even be in the business of standing before assemblies or congregations on a regular basis.

If you are a regular at any kind of meeting, it probably happens to you on a weekly basis. You’ve attended meetings where you’ve heard a shout, “Can’t hear you up here in the back!” But there are some solemn gatherings where that would not be appropriate.

Do you sigh and live with it? Or do you make a humanitarian effort to educate the offender and thereby make the world a better place in which to live? Do you whisper in an ear when they are off the platform and are smiling with pride over a job well done?

Please tell us, when was the last time you went up to a speaker after his or her presentation and said, “I wanted to hear what you had to say, but – do you realize that you run out of breath and whisper the last three words in your every sentence?”

Many years ago Georgie Pease, who might have been 85 at the time, said he really enjoyed my TV show because I was the only person on the tube he could understand. This is because I make an effort to speak clearly and slowly and to enunciate each word – unless it is the “t” in “often” or the “r” in “Garner.”

Sen. Edmund Muskie once stood before the Maine Legislature and said that when speaking to an audience, it was not only necessary to speak clearly so all could hear what was said. It was also imperative to speak slowly so the audience would have time to comprehend what was being said.

I once attended the funeral of a very good and well-loved man. Preachers of several denominations were in attendance and although all of them spoke, only two were comprehensible. The others mumbled into their shoes like nervous eighth-grade students giving their first book report.

Yes, all but two of these professional speakers, appropriately garbed, stood before a packed house, clearly articulated 90 percent of each sentence and then dropped their voice on the last handful of words – the words that gave the sentence meaning.

After the service I approached a woman who spoke well and said in a low voice, “Did you have the impression that you really didn’t fit in up there on the platform? You and that man over there (pointing) were the only two speakers who knew how to project to an audience. I could hear every word you said. Thank you.”

The woman laughed and told me that she learned how to deliver lines years before when she was an actress.

Later in the day, while chatting with a former teacher, I asked him why some speakers ran out of projection power before they’d finished most sentences.

He agreed that it was all too common and said he once worked at a school where they had just built a $3 million gym. At one of the assemblies, the speaker waved the microphone aside and said he could do without it. He then spoke for 20 minutes, and the only people who heard him were sitting in the first three rows.

The last two words in any sentence are often the most important ones. Take, for example, this story of a prisoner who gained 80 pounds while wintering in a Maine county lockup. Later, the warden of that jail was offered a job in Washington as executive director of the National Association of Pork Producers.

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and visited at his website: