If you are asked to give an after-dinner speech, your initial reaction will probably fall into one of two camps. Either you’re wildly excited at the opportunity to provide your pearls of wisdom to a large audience, or you want to go into hiding at the very thought of standing up and making this kind of speech. Most people fall into the second category. The after-dinner speech is a tricky one to get right. You need to be witty and funny but not too risqué, interesting but not too obscure, and of course, confident and knowledgeable. If you are set to give an after-dinner speech, take a look at these tips and prepare for a profitable, and fun, speaking engagement.
1. You Need to Know Your Audience
It is not advisable to plan your speech, show up, and hope for the best without understanding your audience. You need to know the industry, the seniority of the attendees, the balance of men and women, the mood of the occasion, the company, and the recent events that are affecting the company. Assume your audience is pretty sophisticated and will require a well-planned speech.
2. Speeches are for the Audience, Not Yourself
You may have a fantastic joke you really want to try out, or you may feel like shocking some people with your content. Remember that the after-dinner speech is not for your entertainment, but for the audience’s. Consider whether you need to be politically correct, and whether it is acceptable to tease or make jokes out of the audience.
3. Stay Alert and Stay Sober
The occasion may be a festive one, and you may be invited to sit with the guests or to indulge in some wine or food beforehand. Our advice? Don’t indulge. You need to be sharp and sober, even if the audience is not. It is best if you can speak before 11pm as after this the audience will be getting too tired and possibly too drunk to care about what you have to say.
4. You Don’t Have to Stick to the Plan
Don’t be stuck with a set speech and a set plan that you cannot change. The mood of the audience or the style of the event may be vastly different to what you imagined. If you can adapt your speech to the moment, it’ll be much more successful.
5. Staying Cool and Calm is the Way Forward
Whatever happens, stand up, take a deep breath, wait for the audience to be quiet and speak with conviction. If you get thrown off course, regroup and continue at your regular pace. Try to keep your pitch even and low. Practice at home or in the office and have someone listen to you and try to put you off. It helps if you are prepared for hecklers or people who ask strange questions in the middle of the speech.
6. Record it All
Your speech should be recorded so that you can use it as an example of your work when you are pitching for more speaking gigs, or for when you want to show people what they missed by not being at the event. Transcribe the speech using transcription services so you have a written record of what went on. You don’t want to lose a great speech because you didn’t record it at the time.