While the after-dinner speech is as old as mankind, this type of oratory became most popular in England in the early 1900’s. Although its purpose was originally intended to be a light-hearted speech after the evening meal, the after-dinner speech today is often given after a business lunch or even after a breakfast meeting.
The after-dinner speech is unlike the informative or persuasive speech or presentation because it is meant to be entertaining and requires a different tone of voice. In many cases, the after-dinner is often given by a comedian because laughter is important for this type of delivery. You need not be a comedian, however, to give a dynamic after-dinner speech.
The most important aspect of the after-dinner speech is to entertain. Your audience is not there to learn or to be persuaded. Your audience wants something lighthearted and not heavy, argumentative, or technical in nature. If you have a tendency towards seriousness in your presentation, you must ‘lighten up.’ That is not to say that you need be silly or flighty. What you need to do is deliver this type of speech with a light-hearted tone of voice.
While it is a good idea to stay away from politics, sex, and religion, joking about one of these subjects is perfectly permissible as long as it is done in good taste. Use caution, however. Because of political correctness today, it is extremely important to be very careful in what you say and how you say it.
If you are a computer geek, for example, explaining to your audience how to keep viruses from invading their computers is not going to be the most rewarding talk for them. However, regaling your listeners with humorous stories about your experiences with your clients and with their computers could be a wonderful after-dinner speech.
If you are a professional golfer, on the other hand, instead of describing how you won the last three tournaments, it might be an idea to discuss the interesting, the rewarding, and the humorous experiences you have had in your profession.
The secret is to create a clever script that all can relate to in some fashion. Practice it out loud on your friends and family and ask them for their honest opinion about your delivery. Record yourself; study the playback; and you be honest with yourself. Did you enjoy what you heard?
The after-dinner speech can be very effective and very enjoyable. Approach it from the point-of-view of entertaining your audience and you will be much happier with the results.