After Dinner Speakers: Rethinking a Ritual

A photo of After Dinner Speakers

Here’s something I’ve never really understood: the tradition of speaking after dinner.

I’m not saying using after dinner speakers isn’t a great idea.  I am saying that the habit of positioning them speak after dinner might require some reconsideration.


There are some really great reasons to rethink the dinner speaker placement. To me – wherever possible – the idea of having the speaker go on over the appetizer course can be much more effective.   I’d imagine there are a lot of skeptics about this idea but please consider these reasons why placing the speaker before dinner makes sense:

The audience is much more engaged

A long day, a big meal, some alcohol and then the speaker is supposed to get up and be fabulous?  And if it’s the first day of the conference – with perhaps long travel to the event thrown in – and maybe a few time zones difference … you can see why there’s an advantage to getting the speaker in front of the group sooner than later.

-The host’s table will be more fun

The conversation at the table hosting your speaker will be a lot more interesting after the speech.  People can ask questions about what was said.  Before the meal the speaker will wind up talking to table mates about what he’ll be speaking about

-Your speaker can relax

Speakers won’t generally relax until after the talk.  Most are better company once they can relax, have a glass of wine and talk about what they said with the group.

-The audience has a chance to interact about the speech

Once the speech is done, instead of everyone heading off in different directions – or to the bar or to bed – the conversation at the tables can be a lively discussion about the ideas the speaker presented.  This is particularly important when the topic of the talk is something particularly relevant and substantive to the audience.


For some I know this idea of changing the after dinner speakers custom might raise an eyebrow.  It’s easy to come up with all kinds of reasons why it won’t work – people are hungry, the appetizer is too complicated, etc.  But if you try it once, I think you’ll be really impressed with how things work out.  Your audience will get more out of the speaker and your speaker will thank you, too.

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