Many Toastmasters clubs use fancy, programmed presentation timers. This device consists of a lunchbox holding three colored lights. It looks similar to a traffic light, and is wired to a digital timer. Both pieces sit on the table in view of the speaker. The lights warn the speaker about how he is doing relative to his allotted time. For example, for a 5 to 7 minute speech the green light goes on at 5 minutes, the yellow at 6 minutes, and the red at 7 minutes. These timers used to sell for ~$250. I saw one being used just yesterday.
On Tuesday morning, July 28th, in north metro
By 10:15 am the Columbus Division of Fire had responded with their bomb squad, robot, and paramedics. They eventually identified that the device in question was, in fact, quite harmless. Meanwhile, many employees waited out in the parking lot. Several were overcome by the heat, and were treated by paramedics. Shortly after 1:00 pm the emergency finally was over, and all employees were allowed back into the building.
What did this fiasco cost? Assume 2000 people times 3 hours, times $16 per hour, and the result would be $96,000. That’s a really expensive timer!
At our Toastmasters club we are low-tech, so our Timekeeper uses a $10 Deluxe Sports Stopwatch from Radio Shack. We have three homemade cloth flags that one of our crafty members made. Our Timekeeper holds them up in succession to show the speaker how they are doing. So far we have not been visited by our bomb squad.
James Feudo mentioned this fiasco yesterday on his Overnight Sensation blog. He concluded that it gave new meaning to the expression that: “My speech is THE BOMB”. I saw two more newspaper reports about the incident, and thought it was bizarre enough to tell again with a bit more detail.