Almost every event has a series of speakers who make their way to the podium pull out a crumpled sheet of paper and “make a speech.” Some are dynamic presenters and some…not so much. Sometimes the flow of the evening is determined by these people, instead of the other way around. And what your speakers say is critical to the success of the evening.
At an event last year three people - a CEO, a board member, and a celebrity - got up before the auction and proceeded to hammer out a message of “the economy sucks…..we’re all broke….we need to tighten our belts, etc. etc.” As I stood off to the side of the stage, I could feel the energy in the room drain and actually saw people put their paddles on the floor. I do not suggest that anybody pretend that things are peachy keen, but there’s no need for three consecutive speakers to take the wind out of anybody’s philanthropic sail. A message of needed support and acknowledgment of difficult times can both be addressed.
Along with content, length is also a concern. One painfully long thank you speech by an honoree at a large event in San Francisco actually delayed the evening by 30 minutes! The following year the organization video-taped the acceptance speech for that year’s recipient. Then they projected it on the large screens and let the honoree come up on stage, get the award, say thank you and return to his seat.
It’s obviously a tricky matter when it comes to editing or controlling people’s speeches. But your guests will appreciate it if you take the time to offer your speakers a well-placed word about brevity when discussing their speeches. Everyone’s goal should be for the audience to still have plenty of energy and enthusiasm left by the time the auction starts to keep those paddles waving.