On Public Speaking: Pharaoh Cheops, The First After Dinner Speaker
Let’s face it: There are just so many ways you can thank the people who have helped you succeed: You get their attention, use a little self-deprecating humor, review the accomplishment, establish a bond, credit the achievers, refer to the ongoing challenge, and close with your thanks and good wishes. I write such speeches. My model is the original after dinner speech. It was found chiseled into the wall of the King’s Chamber in the great pyramid at Giza. Written in hieroglyphics, it documents a speech given by the Pharaoh Cheops to celebrate the completion of his great pyramid in 4003 BC.
Visualize the event: It is night. The pyramid is illuminated by torches and surrounded by thousands of royals, staff, and guests. Look! There he is on the dais. He’s the one wearing the funny hat with the snake on it. That is the great Pharaoh Cheops, Brother of Ra, the Sun God, and Supreme Ruler of Upper & Lower Egypt. Shh! He is about to speak:
“Can you hear me in the back? (Crowd murmurs and tinkling utensils) May I have your attention, please? Attention, please? Would the waitpersons kindly stop serving the bread and onions for a few minutes? (Crowd quiets down.) Thank you very much.
“I guess I don’t have to tell you who I am (Laughter and applause). I am the Pharaoh Cheops (Applause). My family name is Khufu, but every time I say it, people think I’m sneezing (Sustained laughter). Then they say, ‘You Bless You’ (More sustained laughter and warm applause).
“Well, seriously folks, the big job is mostly accomplished. If I have to tell you that, you’ve been out in the sun too long (Audience laughter). So tonight, I think it’s high time to have a little fun, and to recognize the people who made it happen.
“Many of you give me all the credit (Scattered applause amidst cries of, ‘We worship you!’). I love that little palindrome I heard in the workers’ village: ‘A Man, A Plan, A Pyramid, Giza!’ It doesn’t quite work, but I love it anyway. It speaks to the bond we have between us: Pharaoh and peasant. Two ends of the social fabric, to be sure, but equal partners in this (gesturing) heroic effort (Sustained applause and cries of “Here, Here”).
“That’s enough about me, I promise (Warm laughter). This is your night to share in the glory. I’ll begin by thanking my architects for the design of a monument that I believe will be standing here for many years after I am gone. Our children will look on this structure and take pride in what we did here (Sustained applause).
“And I want to thank the overseers (Good natured groans and scattered applause). That devoted team of first line managers who provided the supervision, direction, and motivation that kept us on schedule and on budget.
“But most of all, most of all, I want to thank you: The little people who made it happen. I want to thank the men, women, and children who pushed those 50 ton blocks of granite up that inclined plane, in all sorts of desperate desert conditions for some 30 years.
“And why did they do it, you ask? Sure, some would say the threats and the whips helped – and they had their place. But most of all, most of all, they did it because we’re a team. And a focused team can accomplish anything from building a pyramid to … a landing on the moon (Chuckles and laughter). It all comes down to teamwork. And what is a pyramid, after all, but a study in teamwork (Standing ovation, sustained applause).
“Okay, that’s enough of the sentiment for one night (Warm chuckles and appreciative applause). Tomorrow at dawn we begin building the temples and outbuildings that will surround our pyramid. And I’ll tell you about an idea I have for a large statue of a lion with my head on it (Murmurs of wonder and approval). More on that tomorrow. But for now, the kitchen staff reports they still have a tent full of rolls and onions, there’s mead left in the kegs, and the musicians are ready to play. So stay as late as you want and have as much as you like. This is your party!
“Thanks everybody, and good night! (Cheers, sustained applause, and cries of, ‘Cheops! Cheops!’ as music begins)”
In addition to speech augmentation, after dinner speeches, roasts, and skits, Ed McManus is the author of We’re Roasting Harry Tuesday Night, How To Plan, Write, and Conduct the Business/Social Roast (Prentice-Hall), and Irish Tales: A Collection of Irish Folklore (Rooftop). Ed also publishes The Jokesmith, a comedy newsletter for business and professional speakers.
Ed does humor and commentary in magazines & newspapers such as Reader’s Digest, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Forbes, Rogue, Quote, Bits & Pieces, Reminisce, Speechwriters Newsletter, Executive Speechwriter, Connections, Fitchburg Sentinel, Kennebunk Star, Boston Herald, Boston Sunday Globe, The Bawl Street Journal, and The New York Times. His material will also be found in a number of quotation and speaker anthology books.
Contact Ed McManus at Jokesmith1@aol.com.
Since 1984: Helping speakers “Make them laugh while you make your point.”