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Other articles by Tom Antion:
Make Your Next Meeting Truly Memorable,
20 Questions BEFORE Hiring a Speaker,
20 Ways to Add Fun and Excitement to Your Next Meeting
Room Set-Up for Maximum Mirth.
Tom's Banquet Tips
Stage Fright Strategies
Eleven Articles for Speakers
Preparing for International Presentations: The Humor Perspective
100 Question Speaker Quiz
FREE Book Chapter from Wake 'em Up Business Presentations
FREE Complete Text from Wake 'em Up Business Presentations Warning! This is a large file.
Tom has done many talks in settings where meals are part of the program.
ROOM SET-UP (Many of these tips work whether food is being served or not)
Avoid spacing round tables widely apart in an attempt to fill the available space. Distance makes
audience involvement and participation much more difficult. A better idea would be to space the tables
as close together as practicable (allowing enough room for comfortable waiter and waitress
movement). Empty room space could be filled with a decorative divider of some sort.
Avoid a great distance between the head table/dais/speaker area and the first row of tables. Again,
distance is a great barrier to interaction.
Try to set the head table/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/speaker area on the short side of
the room (participants will feel they are really far from the action).
Consider allowing the speaker an option of speaking areas. Many top speakers can do a better job
if they are not confined behind a head table and/or lectern. Most audiences like 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 head table back from the front of the
podium. Speaker can 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.
When on a tight time schedule, have desserts placed on the table midway through the meal.
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 gets everything 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
When planning lighthearted/humorous programs, avoid heavy subjects before the speaker, i.e.,
don't show tearjerker slides of starving children (actually happened to a speaker friend of mine), in an
effort to raise funds. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for raising funds for good causes, but if you do this
just before a humorist or comedy show, you may have wasted your money on the talent and actually
made it inappropriate for them to do the job for which they were hired.
Excerpted from Tom Antion's new book, Wake em Up: How to Use Humor and Other
Professional Techniques to Create Alarmingly Good Business Presentations. Anchor Publishing, 336 page softcover, $24.95 +$4.00 S&H, FAX to (757) 431-2050.
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