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Public Speaking Course: 

Banquet and Luncheon Tips

After years of doing presentations and teaching my public speaking course, I have learned some important tips to having a successful presentation where meals are being served. You might want to politely inform the program coordinator to consider some of these points: 

ROOM SET-UP 
(A lot of these tips work whether food is being served or not) 

Avoid spacing round tables far apart in an effort to fill the empty space. Distance from the speaker makes it harder to involve the audience and get them to participate. 

Instead try to space the tables as close together as you can get while still giving the wait staff enough room to move around comfortably. If there is a lot of empty room space you can fill it with a decorative divider of some sort.

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

Consider allowing the speaker an option of speaking areas.  In my public speaking course you will see that a speaker 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 or speaker area on the short side of the room (the audience will feel they are really far away from the action). 

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

TIMING 
The aspect of timing during your presentation 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. 

A few minutes before the program is to begin, it is very helpful to announce something like: "The program will start in ten minutes. Please get your drink refills, (go to the little boys and little girls room), get some more food 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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