Any speech beyond three to five minutes is too long for an end-of-year speech. And whereas laughter is the most receptive state of an audience, you don’t have to be a comedian to attain it
The end of 2016 draws nigh. End of year parties are in the air. And with them come the possibility of you being asked to make a speech. If so, do not give the typical, “No. I wasn’t prepared” or, “I don’t know how to give a speech. Ask Ruth instead.” Instead, take the opportunity to impress the boss; sell yourself by confidently taking on the request. So, what to do? Here are a few pointers to win over the audience. And the boss.
Keep to the mood.
Generally, end of year parties are intended to be fun activities; to wind down after a long year. In keeping with the mood, keep your speech mellow. A serious speech at an end of year party assaults the senses and triggers poor reception. Laughter is the most receptive state of an audience. And no, you don’t have to be a comedian to do this. Just share an entertaining experience that happened in the year and make the lesson learnt relevant to work.
Share a story or anecdote
If ever you are unexpectedly called upon to address a gathering, a relevant story with you in it, is an effective way to pull it off. You’ll speak from the heart; you won’t struggle with content and you’ll connect with the audience because your genuineness will show. Everyone loves to hear a story. And as Africans storytelling is ingrained in our culture. Folklore is how we recorded and handed down history. Years on, I’ll bet you still remember something about Lwanda Magere, Wangu wa Makeri, Mekatilili and so on. And that’s the power of storytelling; it has high recall. Years later, your colleagues will remember the story about how you locked yourself in the MDs loo and couldn’t shout for help for fear of being known you had used it. Neither could you call because you had left your phone on your desk. Do you see them saying “I remember that third point you spoke about in your speech about handling embarrassing situations.”? I don’t.
Keep it short and get their attention
Anything beyond three to five minutes is too long. Attendees want to have fun. They want to laugh about everything and nothing. Your presentation is an intrusion to this and is not welcome. Usually, most make a beeline for the open bar and may already be tipsy. You’ve done well to respect the fun mood the audience is in by speaking in tandem with it. Good. Just don’t push your luck. The attention span of a ‘serious’ audience is not one hundred per cent guaranteed. At any one time one in three aren’t listening. It’s worse with a ‘fun’ audience. You’ll be lucky if anyone is listening! How often do you (or anyone in the audience) listen to the parents’ speech at a wedding reception? Often, the collective murmurs from each table tend to compete with the speaker. The end of year party isn’t much different. That’s why you’re better off starting by getting the noisy audience’s attention. How? By repeatedly tapping on a glass, or, better still, announcing, tongue-in-cheek, that “I have just been informed that it’s a cash bar so expect bills at your table.” Then in the ensuing near shock-inspired silence, dive into an attention gripping opening like, “The tragedy of end of year parties is that there’s never enough to drink. (Pause) Speaking of which, I’m reminded of this experience in May when there wasn’t enough toilet paper in the MDs loo and I had no one to call out to. This is what happened….”
All the best in your speech. Have fun and stay sober. You have a higher chance of positively selling yourself that way. It may be a social event but it’s still a work function. Always remember that.
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