Starting Out As An After Dinner Speaker
Date: September 17, 2015
After dinner speakers are very popular at evening events and many organisations hire speakers to liven up the night. The goal of an after dinner speaker can vary, from motivating employees at a business award show to bringing sophistication to a formal meeting. They’re often the most important part of a dinner event.
These types of speakers are different from your traditional speakers, because they have to entertain the audience after a full day of listening (and a belly full of food).
If you’ve been invited as an after dinner speaker well in advance, remember that your speech will be a huge highlight of the night. It’s not an opportunity to drink along with the guests and you won’t be expected to just give a few lines and sit back down.
The main difficulty this type of speaker faces is engaging with an audience who are having private conversations, as well as infatuating people who just want to go home.
Here are a few tips if you’re starting out as an after dinner speaker:
Timing is everything, not content
Someone can say the funniest thing in the world and it not be funny because their timing was off. Start slow to show you’re relaxed and don’t rush through – especially at the beginning.
How long you spend talking is important too. The last thing you want is for everyone to looked bored because you’ve been on stage for 50 minutes. A good dinner speech will last around 30 to 45 minutes. Any longer than that and you’ll be ignored.
Understand the event you’re attending
Make it your duty to understand what the occasion is as soon as you’re invited as a speaker. That way you can create content that fits in with the night, and you won’t say anything that isn’t suitable.
It’s important that your speech makes sense to the audience and has a point to it. If people are left baffled once you leave the stage, and can’t remember two words of what you just said, then you didn’t bring a meaningful performance.
Allow your speech to create the mood for the night. Don’t be too hard-hitting, but bring an energy. Why have you been asked to speak at the event? Is it to entertain the crowd? Or inspire the audience? Know the answers to these questions before you start writing.
Capture your audience
The last thing you want is to bore your listeners. Make your speech memorable and enjoyable by adding some humour. This doesn’t mean ‘knock-knock’ jokes, but an occasional line to lighten the mood to relax your audience.
This links to the previous point of understanding your audience and what your role is for the night. Don’t write a speech that only you will funny and appreciate. You are not there for you, but for the others.
Prepare to not be prepared
Preparation is key. Knowing the structure of your speech is important but believe in your work so much that you can afford to go off your script occasionally. Even though you want an organised structure to your content, every word shouldn’t rigid and forced; there should be a smooth transition.
Be prepared for interruptions (especially if you’re at an event where alcohol is present!).
That being said, always practice through your lines so you aren’t reading off of a piece of paper when it comes to your big night.
When you start to sense that the night is drawing to a close, end your speech early. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t said everything you wanted to say: leave everyone feeling energised and happy.