After Dinner Speakers were once among the most popular categories of motivational speakers for corporate events. Even as recently as ten years ago the role of a speaker at a business dinner was always on the agenda. At some point, the idea of the after dinner speaker fell to the side of importance as the position of data and content took center stage.
But many organizations still like to have some education mixed with entertainment at their evening meal. But what makes for a great after dinner speaker hard to quantify from group to group.
This is an interesting role. And a hard one for meeting planners to find. Too much content and people, many of whom have been drinking, will zone out. It is common in a large conference evening keynote to see people leave to go to the bar or sit at their tables and talk amongst themselves while the speaker is on stage. This is why after dinner speakers must have an interesting life story and really great storytelling abilities.
After Dinner Speakers Need To Be Storytellers
Compelling stories make the difference between a nice informative keynote speaker and a talk so engaging that your audience will never forget. Storytelling speakers are why the business of live events is having record years. People want more than data. Conference participants want strategic storytelling in an engaging and interactive style.
This is never more important than in the after dinner spot. A speaker who can captivate an audience during the mealtime is special. Many speakers do not like to speak at lunch or dinner, but those who who understand the power of storytelling never shy away from the challenge.
When seeking a speaker who is an experienced in storytelling the meeting planner needs to do their homework. In the meetings world there are trends for speakers that move between content and style. A few years ago it was popular for speakers to advertise themselves as a “Content Speaker”. While these talks were often high learning, audiences did not walk away feeling they had just been part of anything special. A very smart “Sage of Stage” is a disaster as an after dinner speaker.
What Should The Speaker Do?
If you are seeking a speaker for your event that will fill this role, be sure to talk with all your prospective presenters about their experience in the evening, after a meal, and while people are drinking. After dinner speakers must know what is expected of them, and they must have the personality to make the show fun and engaging. This is not the time for dry. Some experience with comedy is also a bonus (but not someone who will do a stand up bit).
There are five things that a great after dinner speaker will do at your conference:
- Learn About The Audience. The after dinner position is not the place for a speaker who will be delivering a canned talk. Many speakers give the same speech to firemen and brain researchers. Neither audience is better or worse, but they generally have different personalities and expectations from speakers.
- Be a Storyteller. This is not the time for a deep dive of data. If the speaker has PowerPoint with too many words, the talk will be a disaster. This is the time to get people to lean in and smile as the speaker shares their information.
- Do not drink. While the evening is a party, the after dinner speaker should not be joining in the wine and beer. It is too easy to get comfortable as part of the team, and lost track of importance of the talk.
- Have a thick skin. It is common that audiences are not in the mood for a speech after and some people will be rude and talk at their tables. This is where a speaker’s energy and personality are so important. The speaker must be in control and not get thrown by the chatter in the room.
- Keep it short. A 60 to 90 minute keynote should not be the norm for after dinner speakers. This is a great time to be brief. A thirty minute keynote will be sufficient, but the shorter the speech, the more experienced speaker you must hire. Short talks are harder to write and deliver.
Consider Thom Singer as your After Dinner Speaker
Please contact me if you are seeking an after dinner speaker for your corporate conference. I have experience in this type of speaking, and I like to bring a fun and funny keynote to your event.
I started my speaking career 15 years ago speaking at local business events. One of my first keynotes was to an audience of CFOs that were expecting a famous business executive, who had a last minute emergency. I was not known as a business professional or as a speaker. They had come to the event to hear about mergers, and were told they were getting a talk on networking. The audience was not pleased, and as I began they were not engaged. At the end of the talk they were on their feet. Afterwards they were laughing and talking and sharing stories.
It was in that moment that I knew I wanted to be a professional speaker, and I wanted to do the after dinner speaker role. But, that role has become less common at events during the years I have been working in the business. About five times a year I serve as the post meal speaker, and I always go into it with the memory of that first talk. I want to bring the audience on a journey and get them to smile and laugh while learning.
Thom Singer is a funny motivational speaker and professional EmCee. He is the host of a popular entrepreneur podcast (“Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do”) and the author of 12 books. He has presented to over 850 audiences and combines action oriented content with humor. Thom Singer began studying stand-up comedy in 2018 to ensure he would grow his abilities as a speaker.