Weddings and public speaking go together. And not everybody likes the idea of speaking in public.
In fact, statistics indicate that many people fear delivering a speech more than they fear death!
The likelihood is that most people will be called upon to write and deliver a speech at least some time in their life. It may be for a business presentation or else for a family event. It may be in front of a handful of people or before a whole crowd. However, it is a skill that is well worth mastering.
I recently wrote about how to make a groom’s speech, and this provoked some interest. So here is some general advice that may be useful.
Only a few years ago, I needed persuasion before I would enter a room to network. When I had to give a 10-15 minute presentation about my business in front of 18 people, I was so nervous that I gestured wildly and shattered a glass of water. I became memorable, if not for the right reasons!
Now, I willingly and confidently address small crowds (I haven’t got to the 1000s stage, but that thought doesn’t phase me). Indeed, as a civil celebrant, my success depends, at least in part, on my presentation skills.
I’d therefore like to pass on knowledge and tips that I have acquired, so that the potential ordeal of public speaking can become much more palatable.
I am going to concentrate here on wedding/vow renewal-type ceremonies. Essentially, we need to focus on content and delivery. Having already focussed on content, I only need to add a little to that now.
- It is better to be brief than over-long – your audience may be hot, tired, hungry
- If you can deliver humour successfully, do so; if not, keep those jokes to a minimum!
- Avoid too many “in-references” – at a wedding half the guests may not know anything about one of the newly-weds, so in-jokes can fall very flat – and exclude whole groups
- Use a script (only very accomplished, experienced speakers can deliver off the cuff), but rehearse so that you can deliver your speech with only occasional reference to your notes. Eye contact with your audience is very important, if you are to engage with them
- There may be a good sound system, but ensure you can be heard loudly and clearly – you can help that by not burying your head in your notes and by speaking s-l-o-w-l-y ( a lot slower than you may expect!)
- Avoid saying anything controversial, whether about personalities present or about sex, religion or politics – the idea of the proceedings is to create a wonderful atmosphere, not to score points!
- Use anecdotes, but ones that fit in and are relevant. Avoid meandering ‘shaggy dog’ stories that may lose your audience. If you are not good at crafting a good story, maybe you can get someone to help you
- Delivery can be varied (both in terms of speed and of volume), but err on the side of slowness and do not be afraid of a silence, if appropriate. Try not to address one area of the room only, but make everyone feel included
Remember that it is a privilege to be asked to give a speech, so be grateful. Remember your audience at all times. Oh, and, however nervous you may be, save the alcohol for afterwards!
Enjoy the occasion.