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Public Speaking Course: 

Banquet/Luncheon Tips

In years of doing presentations and teaching my public speaking course, I have learned some key tips to creating a successful presentation where meals are part of the program. You may need to politely inform the program coordinator to consider some of the following points: 

(Many of these tips work whether food is being served or not) 

Avoid spacing round tables far apart in an attempt to fill the empty space. Distance makes it much more difficult to involve the audience and get them to participate. 

A better idea would be to space the tables as close together as you can get while still
allowing enough room for comfortable waiter and waitress movement. If there is alot of empty room space it could be filled with a decorative divider of some sort.  It is important to have people help you do the best for their group. 

Avoid a great distance between the head table /dais / speaker area and 
the first row of tables. Remember, distance can be a great barrier to speaking and interaction with the audience. 

Consider allowing the speaker an option of speaking areas. Many 
speakers who have learned theirs skills in a public speaking course can do a better job if they are not confined behind a head table or lectern. 

Try to set the head table or speaker area on the long side of the room. 
This means that the back row participants will be closer to the speaker 
than if you set the head table / speaker area on the short side of the 
room (participants will feel they are really far from the action). 

Most public audiences like being closer to the speaker too. To 
accomplish this, place extra chairs near the front of the room to be 
used by the head table participants after dinner (of course, this would 
depend on your overall program). You would not want them seated behind 
the speaker during the program. Set the head table back from the front 
of the podium. The speaker can perform in front of the head table. 

Set buffet tables far to the side or on the opposite end from the 
speaker area. If someone goes back for late seconds or arrives late, 
he or she will not be disruptive. Discourage use of doors anywhere near the head table/speaker area. 
All these placement factors are a key part to understanding what you learned in your public speaking course.

The aspect of timing is also important to learn in your public speaking course. When your on a tight time schedule, having desserts placed on the table midway through the meal can help. 

Arrange with banquet staff to cease all bussing of tables on a 
pre-arranged signal. Many functions have less than interesting 
openings because service personnel are running around for the first 10 
minutes of a talk. This can get everything off to a bad start. 

Ten minutes before the program is to start, it is very helpful to 
announce something like the following: "The program will start in ten 
minutes. Please get your drink refills, (go to the little boys and 
little girls room), grab another piece of cake and then take your seats 
and get ready for a great program!" 

When speaking in public settings where food is involved you must 
make a special effort to take care of all of the logistical details so your speech 
is well received. Learning to use these skills during my public speaking course is just as important as what you will say.


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