After dinner speech ideas

Whether you’re speaking at a work conference, club dinner or an award ceremony, your audience will expect your speech to contain one thing above all – humour. So, let’s take a look some after dinner speech ideas which will lead to laughs and smiles.

After dinner speech icebreakers

The beginning is crucial. No one knows exactly how good you or the speech will be until that first one-liner. Topical jokes or references work very well. They are in the moment so require little set up. They also could only have been written for this event. Let’s explore some avenues.

Political or current affairs references

If it’s a big story that everyone’s talking about, you don’t need to craft a satirical masterpiece. Even a quick mention of the story might be enough to get laughter.

“This evening is something I know you’ve all been looking forward to. A chance to finally escape news of X.”

Pop culture jokes

Pop stars, actors, members of the Royal Family… if someone is making headlines, there might be an angle you can use. If there’s been a scandal, here’s an example:

“The only person who’s drinking more than you tonight is Y’s lawyer.”

The venue itself

Can you link the name, location or history of the venue to the event itself? Maybe compare and contrast the grandeur of the surroundings with the grandeur of the guests. Talking of whom…

The guests

They love to be mentioned. You don’t have to name individuals. You could simply hint they have a reputation for enjoying a party. Perhaps a cheeky reference to the venue double-checking its public liability insurance once they heard who was coming.

The guests’ industry or field

Brainstorm links between their field and the evening itself. If the guests are physicists, perhaps you’ve now discovered something quicker than the speed of light: “An academic approaching a free bar.”

Content of the speech

Tease the audience with what language and subject matter you will cover. Or how long the speech will be. “I hope you are all nicely fed and watered. The last time I spoke in public it coincided with the host’s 50th birthday. When I stood up to speak, he was only 48.”

Other after dinner speech icebreakers cover the ins and outs of a good speech. “I was told the secret to a great after dinner event is to leave them wanting more. Though we can be thankful this advice wasn’t followed by the caterers.”

After dinner speech themes

Your speech might have a wide brief. For example – it’s an end-of-year or Christmas speech. Or it might have a tighter focus such as a 20-year firm anniversary or an awards ceremony. Either way, let’s look at some after dinner speech ideas which can add jokes.


Look for parallels. What was happening in the country 20, 30 or 40 years ago? Economic woes, political scandal, a particular sports team doing badly… perhaps nothing’s really changed.


You might be presenting awards for things like “Salesperson of the year” or “Best digital marketing campaign”. To make it less dry, you could add some fictitious ones to your pre-amble.

“As you know, it’s been a very challenging year for all businesses. We could very well have re-named the award: ‘Best performing sales team during a zombie apocalypse’.”

Review of the year

Talking about your organisation’s achievements and nothing else could be a bit one-note and dull. Broaden your subject matter by using analogies or comparing it to what else is going on in the world. Being self-deprecating is always a sound approach.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day… and nor was the marketing strategy for Q1. Though which one will still inspire awe and wonder in 2,000 thousand years’ time is up for debate.”

Your journey

Perhaps you’ve been asked to give a presentation on your business or personal journey. Imagine someone else giving the speech. What would you want to hear? Certainly not “me, me, me”. So, try to bring the audience into it as much as possible.

Describe an obstacle you faced then ask the audience to imagine the solutions. “Now, have you ever been in a situation where….?”; “I’m sure some of you here have….” “

You can also keep the audience on-side by gently mocking yourself. “Packets of peanuts routinely have the label: ‘Warning – may contain nuts’. Well, I must warn you this speech will contain an awful lot about me!”

After dinner speech tips

Remember those essays from school? “What I did on my summer holidays.” You don’t really know where to start. So, if your brief is wide, try to tighten the focus. Make a list of the key things you want to cover then brainstorm around them.

Ask yourself:

  • What do you want the audience to have learned at the end of the speech? And how do you want them to feel about it? Energised? Appreciated? Entertained?
  • What key line or idea would you love everyone to remember?

Serious first, funny second

A paradox of writing an entertaining and engaging speech is to start with the serious first. Outline what you want to achieve and what topics you’d like to cover. Once you have a framework, look for ways to add a twist to the ideas.  It’s like having a path drawn on a map where you can safely skip off-piste for a few paces then get back on again.

Essentially, one of the key after dinner speech ideas is to be absolutely sure what ideas you’d like to cover. Then let the funny follow.