“Can I have your attention please?”

It can be very nerve-wracking to interrupt the sound of amiable chatter during a reception or social event to call a room to order, to make a speech or give an announcement.

First of All

Once the appointed speaking time has arrived, before you say anything, think about where you are standing and what you look like. This can make a big difference to the overall look and polish of your announcement or speech. Make sure your background is appropriate – particularly if photos will be taken a protruding pot plant, mounted antlers or unfortunate lettering could change your look, and not for the better. Avoid standing in front of a busy door. If possible stand with your back to a wall so no one is behind you. If you will be using a microphone do you know how to turn it on – and off again? Remember to put down anything you are holding which may be a hindrance to your movement or look odd on photographs, such as a big bunch of flowers, a glass of wine or a plate of food.

“Excuse me!”

Gaining the attention of your audience in a way that is courteous, but also authoritative makes a very important start. Gentle tapping your ring or a fork on the side of a glass works well. The sound travels and is distinctive. But remember to always put down your glass and fork once you have everyone’s attention.

If you don’t have a glass to hand you will need to call the room to order vocally – but what to say? A very clear and loud “ladies and gentlemen” works well. These are probably your opening lines anyway and you will be able to move to your next sentence smoothly. It is very difficult to jump into a formal speech if you begin with “Hello”, “Right” or “Okay then”. Remember Bridget Jones, and her attempt at formal public speaking, which began by shouting the word “Oye!” at her prestigious audience. Very difficult to regain composure after that.

If you aren’t heard to begin with, or you only have the attention of those closest to you, shout “ladies and gentlemen” again and keep saying this until quiet descends. This will give a cleaner performance overall and is quicker to say than waffly sentences or questions such as ; “Can I have your attention please?”

And now you can begin to address your audience.