While in Akron on founders day weekend, a friend of mine found the attached type written memo in the personal effects of a long time AA member that were sold to an old book store. It is the speaker guidelines put together by the “Friday Forum Luncheon Group of Alcoholics Anonymous” which met at the Mayflower Hotel, in Akron. It appears to be written in the early 1940’s.
It is a very interesting read, the views of our early members on speaking at a meeting. My Friend
Don B, myself, and Tom H. bought this original document and then promptly donated it to the Akron Intergroup Archives Committee, where it belongs. We were told that nobody at the Akron Archives had ever seen this or a copy of it before. it will now be on display for all to view at the Akron Archives Office.
I just figured I would pass it along to some of the people I thought may enjoy it. Don’t forget to
look at the last page.
AA SPEAKERS MANUAL (1940s)
Friday Forum Luncheon Club
12 noon every Friday
SO YOU ARE GOING TO LEAD A MEETING—
FOREWORD – This leaflet has been prepared by
members of the Friday Forum Luncheon Club, an
Akron organization that warmly welcomes all AA’s
to meet with it for luncheon and fellowship every
Friday, 12 noon, at the Mayflower Hotel. The
suggestions found in this leaflet are just that –
It is hoped that they may be of value to all
speakers, regardless of their AA age. Its prime
purpose however, is to aid the man (or woman, for
the masculine pronoun is used for simplification)
who is confronted with giving his maiden talk
before an AA group. The thoughts expressed are
the thoughts of a score of AA’s, mostly veterans
of a year or more experience. The editors wish to
point out, however, that the suggestions made here
are by no means Gospel, or in any way infallible.
Your talk deserves the best effort you can put
into it. Anything having to do with sobriety
deserves nothing but the best. You can avoid the
embarrassment of stumbling around groping for
words and ideas if you will use the forethought of
preparation. This does not mean sit down and
write out a speech. But organize your subject
matter beforehand. If you have any doubts as to
your memory – and remember, you may experience
stage fright – prepare written notes. After
preparing them, follow them closely or you may get
off on a tangent, find yourself in a thicket of
verbage, and have difficulty in finding your way
back into your notes. Remember, you owe your
audience some consideration. To speak before a
group with no preparation is an insult to their
There is a saying among modern clergymen: “No
souls are saved after the first twenty minutes.”
The two-hour, yes, even the one-hour sermon is a
thing of the past. In almost all cases
effectiveness is lost after thirty minutes. After
the first half hour the average listener starts to
wonder when the speaker will come to a climax and
stop talking. His mind wanders, and what good the
leader has done in his first half an hour
immediately becomes undone. The longer he
continues to talk, the less his listener will
remember when it is all over. Remember,
alcoholics are restless people.
They squirmed at sermons, twitched at movies,
avoided long plays and concerts, almost never
attended lectures. Demothsenes himself could not
hold an alcoholic audience for more than half an
hour. Don’t flatter yourself by thinking you can.
If you don’t own a watch, borrow one and keep an
eagle eye on it. When your half hour is running
out, come to a speedy conclusion. Your audience
will be profoundly grateful.
Lincoln’s Gettysburg address lasted four minutes.
The principle speaker of the day, Edward Everett,
talked for two hours. No one but a professional
historian today knows what Everett said. Every
school child can give Lincoln’s talk verbatim.
Speak up. Don’t Mumble. Trained orators in the
days before public address systems developed a
hard and fast rule: Talk to someone – a friend if
possible – in the very back row of the auditorium.
Then you will be sure every one in the hall will
hear you. And take your time. If you speak
deliberately you may not crowd as many words into
thirty minutes, but at least they will be
Your audience knows you are an alcoholic and a
member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Your presence on
the platform is proof of that – except in a few
rare occasions where the speaker may be a
non-alcoholic, and will be introduced as such.
Consequently it is ridiculous to “qualify”
It may be necessary to give some of your drinking
history to illustrate what obstacles you had to
overcome to become a practicing AA. But keep it
to a bare minimum. Avoid as you would the plague
a blow-by-blow account of your drinking days and
experiences. There are probably a dozen persons
or more in the audience who can give you cards and
spades on drinking background.
A recitation of drinking experiences has a
definite place in the AA program.
It establishes a bond between the AA and the man
who may some day be a member. It helps convince
the new man that he is not the only one in the
world who has a problem. So your drinking story
is valuable when you call on the prospect in his
home, in jail, or in a hospital.
But at a meeting the audience is more interested
in WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO KEEP SOBER. Draw on your
drinking experiences to illustrate points and make
an end of it. “HOW I KEEP SOBER” should be the
topic of EVERY AA leader.
Following are a few brief suggestions:
Don’t try to cover everything you know in one
talk. You probably will be invited to lead at
some future date.
Try to use as much new material as possible in
each talk. The man who heard you Monday night
might hear you again on Thursday.
No one knows all the answers. Don’t give the
impression that you are an exception to this rule.
Don’t read lengthy poems or quotations of any
kind. They are boresome. If you must quote, be
Don’t criticize. Leave that for your fifth
anniversary. And when your fifth anniversary
comes, don’t criticize.
Be sincere. Don’t be dramatic or play to the
Don’t get involved in circuitous analogies.
Someone has already built the ladder or
constructed the house – probably better than you
Don’t be too positive. Rather, have strong
suspicions. Many a man who “is never going to
take another drink” on Tuesday night is plastered
as a new house Wednesday morning.
Don’t feel you must have a weighty answer to every
comment from the floor.
If you have no simple comment, a “thank you” will
handle the situation.
When you are finished, SIT DOWN.
Some meetings have a chairman, who then takes
over. You will have seen him before the meeting
to get the local “ground rules.” You may wish to
suggest to him that he comment briefly on audience
1) Counselling brevity.
2) Advising against over eulogizing you, the
speaker (you are a modest lad)
If you are your own chairman, suppose you do that
– as tactfully as possible.
1) Thank each speaker, no matter what he or
she says. Encourage the new and
2) Make your acknowledgement brief.
3) Avoid lengthy comment as the plague. You
will find new trains of thought
are a labyrinth from which you cannot easily
escape. Temptation to reminiscence will impede
you and after all YOU HAVE SPOKEN YOUR PIECE.
Give the audience a change.
4) Keep your eye on your watch.
5) Close on time with courteous
acknowledgements to the chairman, the
members who have spoken and the group generally,
going from there to THE LORD’S PRAYER.
Download and Print: Speakers manual 1940s