Banquet / Luncheon Tips
(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.
The 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, use the restroom, grab another piece of
cake, and then take your seats and get ready for a great program!"