Archive for February 20th, 2008

A Few Words On… Saying A Few Words (As Few As Possible)

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

I have written a number of times already on my aversion to lengthy speeches at parties. This is because, from long experience, I’ve concluded that most guests at most galas didn’t come to hear windy orations, and will neither sit still nor be quiet for them.

But – if you feel you absolutely must make a speech at your party – you might consider the following:

1. Who? If an audience is going to pay attention at all, they are most likely to do so for either the host or the guest of honor. Uncle Herbie’s “famous” impressions of long-dead celebrities will be drowned out by the Joyful Noise of your guests doing exactly what you invited them to do – partying.

2. What? Brief words of welcome, short prayers, and quick toasts (are you detecting a trend, here?) stand a fair chance of being greeted with respectful semi-silence. Letters and lists will actually receive more attention if they are typed up, copied, and then placed on every table. When read aloud by the host, they are either ignored or -worse – they bring the party to a screeching halt.

3. When? Typically, guests expect some form of greeting immediately after they are seated for dinner. This is not only the best time to speak, it may very well be the only time you will have everyone’s attention. Try to get all such business out of the way as early as possible, so that both you and your guests can enjoy the rest of the evening.

4. Where? The best place for any speaker to stand is in the middle of the room, or as close to the middle as sightlines permit. A raised platform not only helps those at the far ends of the room see that you are speaking, it also sends a signal to one and all that an announcement is imminent.

5. How? A fanfare or drum roll is a good attention-getter. Positioning 3 or 4 friends in different parts of the room to “Shhhhh!” loudly at your cue also works well. Under no circumstances should you start “cold” (clearing your throat, or saying “excuse me” 20 times in a vain effort to get everyone to hush. Shut them up – as best as you can – before you say a word.) Once you do start talking, say whatever is most important to you first. Don’t pause, or your guests may think you’ve finished and resume their conversations. (Another tip: if you have to read your speech, it’s too long.)

Finally, try not to fret if your remarks aren’t received with the respect they deserve. Remember – Lincoln was largely ignored at Gettysburg. You’re in very good company!