After Dinner Tips by: Abby Wright

Abby Wright was the 2015 NCFCA National Champion speaker in After Dinner Speaking. An After Dinner Speech is an original humorous platform speech that informs, inspires and/or attempts to persuade the audience on a noteworthy topic. After a two year hiatus, NCFCA has brought ADS back. What makes this category unique, how should one go about tackling it? We have a lot to say about this topic (and we have more articles to come)! Today, Abby explores her  thought process of tackling an ADS…

Should I do an After Dinner Speech?
Absolutely! After dinner speaking, in general, in one of the most functional forms of public speaking. Not every day will you have the opportunity to present a well-crafted, platform speech to a group of people, but almost every day of our lives are we presented with a chance to entertain people in a casual setting. ADS will help you not only in your presentation of lighthearted material, but it will help you learn how to offer a compelling message within a predominantly humorous speech.

Okay, but… I’m not a funny person…
Do NOT rule out After Dinner Speaking! I’ll be honest – personally, when it comes to speech topics, I am more comfortable with humor than something serious. So, if you are naturally really funny, there is no reason you should not do an ADS. If you do not consider yourself to be funny, so what? I know when you are talking to your friends or telling a story to strangers, you incorporate a bit of humor to keep your listeners engaged. That is precisely what ADS asks of you. The great thing about this category is that it forces all the competitors outside of their comfort zones. ADS is unlike any speech category, but more like every day communication. That is the beauty of it.

How in the world do I pick a topic?
• Don’t force it. Do not select a topic “just because.” People will say for other speech categories that you need to be passionate about your topic. That is even more so vital for After Dinner Speaking. Having to tell a joke over and over and over can be miserable if you are not fully invested in why you’re saying what you’re saying.
• Keep it simple. Everyone has just eaten dinner. Everyone is stuffed. They mosey into the living room and sit back while you entertain them for a few minutes. That is not the time to explain the details of biomedical engineering or attempt to persuade people the electoral college is bad.
• Stories not statistics. Pick a topic that means a lot to you personally, one that you could practically write a speech on without consulting Google. Try writing the speech in such a way that you, and only you, could possibly present the message.
• You need a message. After dinner, when everyone is sitting around the living room, their hearts are open to receive that gold nugget of truth by the end of your speech. Do not miss that opportunity by just writing a funny script.
• It is after dinner. Remember that. You are not writing this for the judges on a rainy Friday morning at 8am. You are writing this for an intimate group on individuals after dinner. Those are two very different things.

Tips for writing:
• Maybe branch out on the roadmap. I get it, judges love a good point one, point two, point three. But consider this: perhaps the greatest aspect of a speech is not “how is she going to prove that,” but rather, “where is she going with this?” I recommend some sort of thesis statement, but keep in mind that ADS is not your usual platform speech.
• Say each sentence aloud as you write the script. Sometimes, you just can’t tell if a story or joke is funny until you’ve said it out loud
• By no means should the tone remain lighthearted for the entire ten minutes. Keep it funny overall. I would try to have a few laugh out loud moments. But you must be serious at crucial points. Over my NCFCA years, I have found the best use of humor to be a tool to open the hearts of your audience so they trust you. Some of the greatest, deepest, most potent lines in a speech come right after the laughter because your listener has engaged with the speaker and is ready to receive the speaker’s message.

Tips for presentation:
• Casual, casual, casual. It’s off-putting to watch someone who stands rigidly tell a funny story – be loose and open. Act as though you are telling your friends a funny story, not three random parents.
• Strive for authenticity. Even before and after you speak, act as you do in your speech. Judges can tell when a competitor “steps into character” when they start speaking. If you have to change the way you would normally act in order to give an ADS, you are doing it wrong.