Some people relish it.
Other people lose sleep because of it.
For some, it will be the only public speaking engagement they ever have.
Yes, it’s the Wedding Speech.
Picture this. You’re at a wedding as a humble guest. No responsibilities except for celebrating this happiest of days for the special couple.
The service is emotional, the photographer rallies the guests without a hitch, the Champagne is chilled, the meal is flawless and now you’re ready to be entertained and moved by the speeches.
Sometimes those Father of the Bride, Groom, Best Man and (increasingly) Bride speeches hit the mark. Clues are laughter, tears, rapturous applause!
Sometimes those speeches really don’t hit the mark. Clues are embarrassed sniggers, uncomfortable silences and slow hand-claps.
To avoid the latter, here are my top tips for speech success!
- Start your speech preparation as soon as possible. Leaving it to the last minute or jotting-down some notes on a napkin on the day is a risky strategy. Liaise with the other speech-makers. What do your speeches have in common? Will you be repeating certain stories? Who is introducing who? Start to write your speech and come back to it on a regular basis, edit and re-write it as the Big Day gets ever-closer. A great speech will be re-written a number of times.
- Write your speech from the heart. Whatever your role on the day, your speech is as important as the emotional service and stunning photographs, designed to last a lifetime. Avoid using standard speeches that can be found on the internet or watching a speech on You Tube and repeating it. It just won’t work for so many reasons. Delivering a speech on a couple’s Big Day is an absolute honour and should be treated as such.
- Make sure the font on your speech script is large enough for you to see it with good spacing. Number your pages or cue-cards, so should you become distracted you can pick-up with ease. Distractions could include guests moving about, a phone ringing or even a heckle! Ask guests to put their phones on silent. Unless you’re confident about tackling hecklers, let it go. Avoid ad-libs if possible.
- Nerves are great. Nerves will keep your adrenaline pumping and will contribute to a stunning personal performance. Your nerves will be vastly reduced by practice and preparation. Record your speech on your phone or video your rehearsal. You will note the tone and pace of your delivery and see your body language. Are you delivering your speech with your shoulders up and back hunched? Are you standing-up straight, looking confident and maintaining eye contact with your audience? Above all, are you SMILING.
- The guests want to be taken on a journey. They want you to be brilliant and are willing you to do well, so tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. The end of your speech is what guests will remember so make it genuine, use a slow paced delivery, use a pause or two in your delivery to allow your speech to permeate and SMILE!
- Alcohol before the speech – One to settle the nerves but no more (and drink plenty water).
- After your speech, the guests will love you so much they will be buying you drinks at the bar and congratulating you all night for being an absolute hero. Alcohol plus nerves equals misjudged bravado.
- Remember, It Is Not Your Show! Many speech-makers (especially Best Men) feel the pressure to turn their ten-minutes into a stand-up comedy performance. Unless you’re Jimmy Carr, forget it. The guests are looking to be entertained with reminisces, anecdotes and the story of the couple’s journey to this memorable day.
- Swearing and Crude Humour – Absolutely not; under any circumstances. Regardless of the size of the reception you will have a mixed audience of all ages and you need to be sensitive to that. It also reflects badly on you as an individual and can leave the Groom’s choice of Best Man as questionable. PLUS DON’T MENTION THE STAG DO – SERIOUSLY!
- The Toast – Direct the guests and be very clear about who you/they are toasting by looking directly at the person…”Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand and join me in raising a glass to….”. Once again watch your pace, speak clearly, with conviction and sincerity and, oh yes…SMILE.
- Equipment – Check out your audio system before the reception starts. Does the microphone work? How do you turn it on? How close do you need to hold it? Is it a lapel microphone? Is it audible? Who looks after the volume? Are you using visual equipment? Does the video and/or PowerPoint work?
For me, as a communication and presentation professional, the key to making a memorable speech is to start your research and scripting as early as possible, be prepared to make re-writes and practice, practice, practice.
Above all, enjoy it!
About the Author
Gary Robinson is a great friend of the Forbes Family and the Director of Gary Robinson Communications www.grcommunications.co.uk
Gary offers individual and group training for all parties preparing a speech for a wedding or civil ceremony, from advising on scripting to coaching on the delivery of your speech, Gary will work with the whole wedding party in advance of the event.
Gary can be contacted at email@example.com or call 07453 948028.