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Public Speaking Course: 

Banquet/Luncheon Tips

In years of doing presentations and teaching my public speaking course, I have gathers some useful tips to having a successful presentation during a banquet or luncheon. You may need to politely inform the program coordinator to consider some of the following points: 

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

Avoid spacing round tables really far apart in an attempt to fill up the empty space. The more distance you have from the audience the harder it is to involve them and get them to participate. 

A better idea would be to place the tables as close together as you can get while still allowing enough room for the waiters to move around comfortably. If there seems to be too much empty room space you could fill it  with some kind of decorative divider. 

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

Consider giving the presenter 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 longer 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 everything going on). 

Most audiences like being closer to the speaker. 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 presenter can then 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.

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

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 the presentation 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 having a presentation in settings where food is involved you have to 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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