During my time as Chairman of Forum, the Public Speaking Group of the Australian Institute of Management, I have often been asked about speaking after dinner.
Before I discuss this opportunity, I want you to think back to a time when you were at a dinner event and the speaker came on.
How did you and your party react?
Did you give him or her a chance to get started?
Did you listen intently to the point of view being put across?
Or did you, after you realised that this was not an entertainer, turn your attention back to your own group or shout out comments to the speaker.
If you and your table didn’t, did others?
And how did you feel?
How do you think the speaker felt?
If you are a novice then making a presentation after dinner is very hazardous for your esteem and frankly, I would recommend that you decline.
The reason is that the audience typically, will not be in a receptive state to what ever message you want to put across.
Again generally, alcohol has been consumed and what the audience is looking for is entertainment.
They want you to make them laugh.
To be an entertaining speaker of this nature requires a great deal of skill, and self-confidence.
With inhibitions reduced members will shout out comments, which will distract you.
Many novice speakers get involved in an interaction with their audience and very soon they have lost control.
Other members want to be funny at your expense and it is incredibly difficult to maintain your cool and not be taken down their path of ridicule for you.
Again with the lapse in manners that often occurs in such situations, they may ignore you and carry on conversation amongst themselves in such a loud and rude manner, you could well succumb to the feelings of inadequacy.
These feelings are real.
Your skill level is inadequate although you are not inadequate as a person.
However, with the emotion of the moment you can scar yourself forever.
I have seen speakers who were not frightened of speaking in public before, who are now terrified.
This makes it so much harder to overcome the nerves because the fear has such power!
So, before you go near an after dinner speaking engagement, learn the basics.
Practice the basics and start with your first speeches in a safe place.
And if you are the guest speaker, never ever drink before your speech.
And generally, do not eat, as a burp at the wrong time will destroy your confidence.
So, if possible, go and enjoy the dinner as a guest patron until such time as you have gained the necessary skills and confidence.
To your growing confidence and success.