An after dinner speech is an occasion to create a sentiment of goodwill at the end of an important event. It is therefore important to ensure the thoughts you express complement the occasion. This is a good time to reminisce over the past, share a vision for the future or simply express gratitude. The approach you choose will depend on the formality of the occasion, and your closeness to the host. Although after dinner speeches are meant to be light and humorous, use jokes with caution to avoid sounding crass.
Choose a topic that suits the occasion and audience. If you are speaking at a business event, maintain a formal tone. Use information about recent success stories of projects or speak of future goals you have set out to achieve. When speaking at a wedding, keep the tone of your speech light and informal. Speak of how the couple met each other or how they overcame initial barriers to come together.
Select a theme around which to build the after dinner speech, and collect relevant information you can use. For example, if you are speaking at a charity fundraising event, find out more about the organisation's activities and future plans, and the ways in which people can help. Work this into your speech along with a few inspirational stories that highlight the difference the organisation is making to the lives of others, to garner support for the charity's work.
Include vignettes to draw attention to the qualities of the host when speaking at a private family function. Quote from memorable events in the past that made your relationship stronger, and draw attention to what you learnt from him. End by expressing your gratitude to him and wishing him good for the future.
Use humour, but with discretion. If you plan to speak of some funny incident in the past, make sure it is not something that will cause embarrassment to anyone present at the gathering. When speaking at a business event, include a few industry-specific jokes to which your audience can relate, but take care they are politically correct. Make sure you don't offend people by telling tasteless jokes that are chauvinistic or racist.
Steer clear of topics or statements that spoil the mood of the occasion. Avoid dwelling on unpleasant incidents, mentioning them only in passing to highlight what it taught you or how it made you a better person. Keep your tone engaging, and avoid using language that is harsh, hurtful or sarcastic.
Keep the after dinner speech short so that people don't get bored waiting for it to end.