Create an after-dinner speech to die for!
After-dinner speeches are considered a standard in many corporate and social, not to mention political, events and gatherings. And as we all know, it’s all well and good to be part of the audience at these kinds of events, listening with half an ear to the person making the dreaded after-dinner speech. But what if you are the one tasked to give an after-dinner speech, and you are terrified of being the topic of insensitive (and, let’s face it, sometimes nasty) comments from your audience? What hope is there for you?
Well, it’s not time to throw in the towel just yet. You can avoid all the fumbling and faltering and take charge of your after-dinner speech by following these few tips:
Get to know your listeners
Obviously, you cannot just show up for the event, stand up in front of that critical crowd, and hope for the best. You have to prepare your speech in advance – but you also have to know your particular audience. Details such as knowing where important personages are sitting are important, for one. You should also pay attention to the average age of your audience, the ratio of men to women, their general mood and the atmosphere of the event. Basically, it all boils down to this: do your homework. Knowing your audience can contribute greatly to what you do choose to say and speak about and how impactful it will be.
Have a text prepared, but don’t be afraid to deviate from it
Preparation is crucial for any after-dinner speech, so you should write down your text and what you are planning to say. But don’t feel lumbered with it. What we mean is this: even if you have your own prepared text, it is not necessary for you to stick to it if you feel that you know your topic well and can speak about it in an authoritative (yet entertaining and interesting) manner. You can always modify your text and only refer to it occasionally, such as when you would like to stress a point or when you have forgotten what to say next.
One tip to delivering a speech worth remembering: have it transcribed. Before you begin, you can refer to this transcript, and then have it distributed to your audience afterwards. This way, your impact can be felt even after your speech has been made.
Don’t get nervous
Yes, you may think that this is easier said than done. It’s easy to say ‘don’t get nervous’ when you’re not the one facing an audience of a few hundred unforgiving sets of eyes, right? But know this: it is the first two minutes that make an impact and catch your audience’s attention. These initial 120 seconds are crucial, so when walking to the podium or platform, remember to prep yourself. Stand up straight, hold your head up high, and summon all the ounce of confidence you have. Then look at your audience, wait until they are all expectantly quiet, and begin speaking with a clear voice and with warmth and the right degree of conviction. It’s all about prepping yourself before your speech.
Keep it short and sweet
Nothing is worse than a speaker droning on and on, even if the audience was receptive at the beginning. It’s important to note that even if the average after-dinner speech is around 30 minutes, sometimes the best speeches are as little as ten. Remember to instil humour in your speech as well as great content, but also a certain degree of humanity – that personal, intimate touch that every audience is looking for.