Coping with Public Speaking

Coping with Public Speaking

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.

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My story

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.

Focus

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.

Tips

  • 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.

 

Wedding Speeches

Wedding Speeches

Wedding speeches form an integral part of most receptions. Traditionally, one is delivered by the bride’s father, one by the best man and one by the groom. For now, let’s concentrate on the latter.

The groom’s speech is an opportunity to help the guests know a little more about either or both of you – preferably, in a witty and enjoyable manner. It may well offer a public demonstration of your affection and excitement. So there is a lot to get right (or wrong).

Elements

It is vital that the speech is not too long. Ten minutes will be quite long enough. It should focus on the bride – what she means to you, possibly how you met and maybe an anecdote that shows why you chose her. Crucially, it should be sincere.

Incidentally, don’t hold back from saying “my wife and I”, if you wish.

Of course, you need to thank everyone who contributed to the wedding (not just financially!). So it should be the parents of the bride, the participants (bridesmaids, ushers, etc.) and the guests. Absent friends may be mentioned here. Without overdoing it, a bit about the best man could go in (preferably, including a story about something you both got up to in the murky past!). (Liaise with your best man beforehand so you don’t double up on the same story.)

Delivery

Don’t rely on memory (especially on such a day), nor should you read out from a long script. Use notes, so you can make eye contact with your audience as much as possible.

However, when you talk about your new wife, say what attracted you, why you love her, relate an interesting/humorous episode. For this, you can address your remarks directly to her. And a compliment is unlikely to be taken amiss (your guests will love it too!).

Try and vary your delivery, so it is not monotonous.

Speed

However nervous you may be, take your time! Don’t mumble or gabble. Speak loudly and clearly. People will really want to hear what you have to say, so don’t frustrate or deprive them!

Humour

If you can start with a joke, then that is fine. However, ensure any joke you tell is funny – and that it is not crude or offensive. If you are hopeless at telling jokes, then it may be better to leave them out altogether.

If you are going to include one, then, direct a gentle jest at your best man (NOT at your new in-laws, unless you are VERY sure that it is appropriate and that they will be OK with it! Definitely don’t get off on the wrong foot …).

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I took a great risk at my wedding, because I chose to be quite rude about my new wife (but I did say some nice things too!). I got away with it (although, of course, I am still suffering the fall-out to this day!) because my comments were funny (no, really!), but it’s a dangerous game to play.

Finish

Once you’ve thanked everybody, told a story or two and possibly talked about your excitement at the prospect of your new life, stop while you’re ahead. Propose a toast to the bridesmaids and/or your wife and then pass the microphone to your best man.

Notes

  • Don’t forget to thank your in-laws or whoever financed the affair. Thank your father-in-law for his speech (and for producing such a wonderful daughter). Thank everybody on behalf of your wife too. Make mention of guests from afar, or special guests, your in-laws and your own parents. Don’t thank caterers, florists etc. who will have been paid for their services. Try not to spend too long thanking people.
  • Don’t read out long lists.
  • Resist the temptation to get blind drunk before your speech!
  • Check beforehand with your best man that there’s no clash or excessive overlap/repetition in what you are both going to say in your speeches.

Prepare thoroughly beforehand, remember the tips about delivery, and you will manage a wonderful speech that you will enjoy making and that your guests will love hearing.

 

The Wedding Speech

The Wedding Speech

The wedding speech is an integral part of most receptions. Traditionally, one of these is delivered by the bride’s father, one by the best man and one by the groom. Let’s concentrate on the latter wedding speech.

The groom’s speech is an opportunity to help the guests know a little more about either or both of you – preferably, in a witty and enjoyable manner. It will also surely offer a public demonstration of your affection and excitement. So there is a lot to get right (or wrong).

I have to confess that, as the speeches are such an important and often memorable part of the occasion, I am thinking of offering a professional groom and/or best man speech-writing service. It might therefore be useful for me to get my thoughts in order on this! Here goes.

Elements

It is vital that the speech is not too long. Ten minutes will be about right. It should focus on the bride – what she means to you, possibly how you met and maybe an anecdote that shows why you chose her. Crucially, it should be sincere.

Incidentally, don’t hold back from saying “my wife and I”, if you wish.

Of course, you need to thank everyone who contributed to the wedding (not just financially!). So it should be the parents of the bride, the participants (bridesmaids, ushers, etc.) and the guests. Absent friends may be mentioned here. Without overdoing it, a bit about the best man could go in (preferably, including a story about something you both got up to in the murky past!).

Delivery

Don’t rely on memory (especially on such a day), nor should you read out from a long script. Use notes, so you can make eye contact with your audience as much as possible.

However, when you talk about your new wife, say what attracted you, why you love her, relate an interesting/humorous episode. For this, you can address your remarks directly to her. And a compliment is unlikely to be taken amiss (your guests will love it too!).

Try and vary your delivery, so it is not monotonous.

Speed

However nervous you may be, take your time! Don’t mumble or gabble. Speak loudly and clearly. People will really want to hear what you have to say, so don’t frustrate or deprive them!

Humour

If you can start with a joke, then that is fine. However, ensure any joke you tell is funny – and that it is not crude or offensive. If you are hopeless at telling jokes, then it may be better to leave them out altogether.

If you are going for one, direct a gentle jest at your best man (NOT at your new in-laws, unless you are VERY sure that it is appropriate and that they will be OK with it! Definitely don’t get off on the wrong foot …).

I took a great risk at my wedding, because I chose to be quite rude about my new wife (but I did say some nice things too!). I got away with it (although, of course, I am still suffering the fall-out to this day!) because my comments were funny (no, really!), but it’s a dangerous game to play.

Finish

Once you’ve thanked everybody, told a story or two and possibly talked about your excitement at the prospect of your new life, stop while you’re ahead. Propose a toast to the bridesmaids and/or your wife and then pass the microphone to your best man.

Notes

  • Don’t forget to thank your in-laws or whoever financed the affair. Thank your father-in-law for his speech (and for producing such a wonderful daughter). Thank everybody on behalf of your wife too. Make mention of guests from afar, or special guests, your in-laws and your own parents. Don’t thank caterers, florists etc. who will have been paid for their services. Try not to spend too long thanking people.
  • Don’t read out long lists.
  • Resist the temptation to get blind drunk before your speech!
  • Check beforehand with your best man that there’s no clash or excessive overlap/repetition in what you are both going to say in your speeches.

Prepare thoroughly beforehand, remember the tips about delivery, and you will manage a wonderful speech that you will enjoy making and that your guests will love hearing.

Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made civil ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe.