Speeches are usual at formal dinners or banquets. Guests should sit quietly, be still and refrain from chatting during the speeches. It is customary to clap at the beginning and the end.
A speaker is announced by name, followed by office where applicable. For example, ‘The Right Honourable Neil Green, Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for ……’. For the first speaker the announcement should have a preamble, as for the toast, followed by, ‘Pray silence for ……’. For subsequent speakers the preamble should be omitted.
Speeches at formal functions always open with a preamble. It is impossible to give a comprehensive list of those who should be mentioned in the preamble to a speech, since this depends so much on those present at a particular event. In general, however, the list should be kept as short as possible, avoiding any omission that would cause justifiable offence. The speaker does not, of course, include himself in this preamble. Should The Queen be present, a preamble begins: ‘May it please Your Majesty’.
With the above exception, a preamble begins with the host, who is referred to by office, for example, ‘Madam Chairman’, ‘Mr Chairman’, ‘Provost’, etc. A non-royal duke or duchess is addressed as ‘Your Grace and President’.
A peer other than a duke, who is hosting an event in an official capacity, is addressed as ‘My Lord and President’. It is incorrect to use the form ‘My Lord President’, except for the Lord President of the Council.
A woman, either titled or untitled, with the exception of a member of the Royal Family or a duchess, is referred to as ‘Madam President’, not ‘Lady’. An untitled man is referred to as ‘Mr President’.
When a vice-president takes the chair, he or she may be referred to as ‘Mr Vice-President’ or ‘Madam Vice-President’ as appropriate, with the relevant prefix mentioned above, but he or she is more usually referred to as ‘Mr Chairman’ or ‘Madam Chairman.’
A chairman is called ‘Mr Chairman’, or ‘Madam Chairman’, irrespective of his or her rank, with the exception of a member of the Royal Family, who is referred to as ‘Your Royal Highness’.
A peer should not be called ‘My Lord Chairman’, simply ‘Mr Chairman’.
If a vice-chairman, managing director or other officer of the organisation takes the chair, he or she is still referred to as ‘Mr Chairman’ or ‘Madam Chairman’. The use of these styles is not restricted to the actual chairman of the organisation.
If a member of the Royal Family is also the president or patron of the society that is holding the event, he or she is styled ‘Your Royal Highness and President’.
Most people will be familiar with such expressions as: ‘Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen’ in the preamble to a speech. However, at an event where a number of illustrious guests are present, it is not inevitable that the usual sequence of precedence is followed.
Adjustment may need to be made in order to give due respect to a patron, president or guest of honour. Courtesy and common sense will overrule conventional correct form. If in doubt, there is no reason why the host or planner of any given event should not contact the dignitaries concerned before coming to any hard-and-fast decisions regarding matters of precedence and protocol. If there is a member of the Royal Family involved then it is best to contact their office. Homework and research are always advisable.