Public Speaking Course:
In years of doing presentations and teaching my public speaking course, I have learned some helpful tips to creating a successful presentation where meals are being served. You may need to politely inform the program coordinator to consider some of the following points:
(Many of these tips work whether food is being served or not)
Avoid spacing round tables really far apart in an attempt to fill up the empty space. Distance makes it much more difficult to involve the audience and get them to participate during the presentation.
A better idea would be to space the tables as close together as you can get while still
allowing enough room for comfortable waiter and waitress movement. If there is alot of empty room space it could be filled with some kind of decorative divider.
Avoid a big distance between the head table /dais / speaker area and the first row of tables. Remember, distance can be a big barrier to speaking to the audience and having interaction with them.
Consider giving the presenter an option of speaking areas. Many speakers who have learned theirs skills in a public speaking course can do a better job if they are not confined behind a head table or lectern.
Try to set the head table or speaker area on the longer 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 everything going on).
Most audiences like being closer to the speaker also. 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 the 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.
All these placement factors are a key part to understanding what you learned in your public speaking course.