A little slice of history up for auction at eBay is Fred Pohl’s letter accepting the LA bidders’ invitation to be 1972 Worldcon guest of honor if they won. (As they did. L.A.Con was the first Worldcon I ever attended.)
Writing to co-chairs Chuck Crayne and Bruce Pelz in 1969, Pohl also made a request: please shorten the speeches!
There is one thing, though. It’s not a condition, because I don’t want to try to tell you how to run the con, but it’s a heartfelt request. Having sat through, at recent cons, funny remarks by a toastmaster, protracted patter with the awarding of the Hugos, four or five brief (at least, they were supposed to be brief) announcements and other awards, a fan GOH speech and a pro GOH speech, I ask that you do something about making it shorter. Human flesh can stand just so much!
Don’t think Pohl was merely echoing the common complaint about the length of Hugos we hear nowadays, where people stroke out if the ceremonies last over a hundred minutes.
Pohl was writing less than a year after BayCon, the 1968 Worldcon, where fans had endured dinner and speeches in 95-degree heat, in an unventilated ballroom without air conditioning, for five hours and fifteen minutes before the first Hugo was even presented.
Mike Resnick recalled that night in a piece for File 770 #100:
[At 8:00 p.m.] Phil Farmer got up to give his speech…. [When] he paused for a drink of water more than 2 hours into it, we all gave him a standing ovation in hope it would convince him he was through. It didn’t. He finished after 10:30. Time for the Hugos, right? Wrong. Randy Garrett gets up, takes the microphone away from Toastmaster Bob Silverberg, and sings about 50 verses of ‘Three Brave Hearts and Three Bold Lions.’ Finally, approaching 11:15, Silverberg gets up to hand out the Hugos.
Pohl wanted to avoid any repetition of a nightmare that was still fresh in everyone’s mind.
How long did the 1972 banquet and speeches run? I don’t remember, I only know it was hours shorter than at BayCon.