This is the ingredient of a successful after-dinner talk.
By Rosalind Ho
A challenge arises when your host asks you to give a short speech after dinner. Usually, the host would have requested that you speak after the dinner in which case you could prepare beforehand. Sometimes, the host may spring a surprise by asking you immediately after dinner and that is the stress of tackling an extemporaneous speech. Speaking of the cuff is never easy. It requires quick thinking and wit to keep the audience engaged.
The audience has dined and may have already felt the headiness after some wine and good food. All they want is some nice interaction with their fellow diners and banter away. Many of them may be fidgety and getting a little restless.
1 Entertain them somewhat. However, know the purpose of the speech — informative, persuasive, inspirational so there is some direction.
2 Make the appropriate comments that would please your host as well as your audience.
3 Make them laugh which would be valuable.
4 Impart some worthwhile thoughts they can leave the party with. Inspiring, motivating, and informative are some considerations.
What can the after-dinner talk be about?
It should be relevant to the theme of the party. Avoid taboo subjects like sex, race, religion, and politics. People have varying beliefs and ideas. The topics mentioned are very divisive so be cautioned. This is not the time to start a crusade about your beliefs. The gathering is about the main character or event concerned and not about anybody else.
Remember the audience is already very relaxed so it is not good to rile them with controversial topics. We want to build on the excellent atmosphere of fellowship and continue from there.
The guests have gathered for a reason — A birthday party? Graduation or Anniversary? An award or promotion celebration? Or just old friends gathering for the evening? Keep the purpose of the gathering in mind as you prepare your talk. If you have been invited to speak at the dinner, you should ask about the purpose of the dinner and reflect on your host’s merits and his special guest if any beforehand.
If you have been appointed to give an after-dinner talk by the host, it would be wise to show your script beforehand to gain the approval of the host. He or she may contribute more ideas.
Points to note about after-dinner speech
1 Be brief. — Unless you are a seasoned speaker who can arrest the audience’s attention, a 10-minute speech is enough to stretch their focus and patience before they start whispering and have a mini chat among themselves. If you have humorous, relevant anecdotes to narrate, an extension of 5 more minutes may just be ideal. This is from my observation at invited dinners.
2 Be mindful — -If the dinner has already been delayed for some reason and there are further programs like a business session or other speakers in line, then you have to cut your address accordingly. If the salient points are mentioned, it does not matter if your speech is a short one.
Be aware of the audience’s mood, body language, and facial expressions. If something said is not agreeable, be spontaneous enough to change the subject. As a speaker, remember to use a light-hearted tone and keep smiling! Pausing at the right moment to allow the jokes to sink in and the audience to laugh is very effective before moving to the next point.
3 Be positive — -People generally want to hear the good stuff. Think of all the wonderful aspects associated with the host, the audience, and the opportunity to be at the dinner. Do not mention anything embarrassing unless you have sought permission from the person whom the dinner’s theme is centered around. The host should also be consulted.
Unless it is a dinner designed to roast the host, remain courteous and respectful. Even a roasting speech can be polite and needs style and subtlety which is not easy.
Stay with a positive message. Remember the first and last thing sticks!
4 Be entertaining — If you recall, there are bound to be some humorous episodes that reflect the humorous side of your host or the person in question or you would not be asked to speak. The best approach is to be original with your jokes based on your experience. You might do well to keep some short jokes in your arsenal for such times. However, these jokes should be in line with the theme of the party.
Incorporate some rhetorical devices like metaphors, puns, exaggeration, understatements, etc that are often used in interesting speeches. Some drama may be necessary to give that punch!
5 Be respectful — -Always observe the protocol of a speech. Greet everybody, tell your story with ease and spontaneity, and thank your host for the invite and everyone for their attention. Keep a smile on your face and don’t act so serious. Most minds are already quite foggy after a big dinner. Courtesy begets courtesy and everyone goes home happy.
😄 😄 😄
Structure of the after-dinner talk
The humorous talk should be structured like any speech with an opening that is attention-grabbing and prepares the audience for some enlightenment. The body should follow the theme of the gathering, reinforced by stories and relevant jokes. The conclusion should end on a high note and not be a summary or personal call for action for some agenda unless instructed by the host. ( Example, small fundraising is the purpose of the gathering).
For more points about humorous speeches, you may read this article.
Always ends with a toast to the successful gathering and a big thank you for the opportunity to speak after the dinner.
An after-dinner talk is probably one of the challenging talks to give. Given the relaxed atmosphere, sometimes there may be more noises and even some interjections when people let their guards down after some drinking some wines. An excellent speaker takes all these in his stride and continues to deliver his speech together with his humor at a steady pace.