Wedding readings and speeches are probably the most worried-about element of the big day – whether it’s the bride or groom, a parent or a best friend, a lot of people feel panicky when faced with the challenge of public speaking in front of a crowd. If this is you, don’t worry! We’ve asked the Wedding Speech Guru Robin Bayley to give us his tips on beating those nerves…

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Understand what nerves are

The first thing to realise is that nerves are inevitable and, this is the important point, they aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Nerves help you to raise your game.

You only have to be brave for a second

If you’re nervous when standing petrified on a diving board, you only have to be brave for an instant; as soon as you make the leap, gravity and exhilaration soon takes over. It’s very similar with speaking in public – as soon as you begin to speak, and make a connection with the audience, the nerves all but disappear.

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Be confident… but how?

While nerves are inevitable, you do need to be able to control them. What do you need to control nerves? Confidence. And how do you become more confident? Know your speech. The definition of confidence is to have faith in something; if you know your material and how you want to deliver it, you’ll have confidence in your speech and yourself.

The 3 Ps

For any speech, reading or presentation, there are three Ps to remember: Plan, Prepare and Practise. Even if you just want to say a few words, if you have planned, prepared and practised those words in advance, your ability to convey what you want to say will increase exponentially.

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Whether it’s a speech or a reading, practising doesn’t mean just reading it through. You need to practise saying it out loud, several times. The more times you read it out loud, the more you will understand the rhythm of the piece, and which words need certain intonation and emphasis.

Know who you’re speaking to

If it’s your wedding you will know who the wedding guests are. If not, ask who’ll be there, and who needs to be mentioned. Try and include stories from both sides of the aisle so you connect with everyone in the room. The more you connect, the better they will react to you, and the more relaxed you will feel.

Another way to connect with the audience is to talk with as many people as possible in the reception beforehand. It’s good to look up at friendly faces when you stand to make your speech, and if they’ve met you they’ll get behind you all the more. You may also get some gems of last-minute material.

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Know the room

Make sure you see the room where the speeches will take place. See how your voice sounds in the room. If you’re using a microphone, test it. Double and triple check that any other technology you need is working. Appoint someone you trust to make sure it comes on at the right moment. Practise with them.

If you are doing a reading at the church, attend the rehearsal if at all possible, and ask to practise the reading. If not, make sure you know where you’ll be speaking from.

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Look up and smile

What do people do when you smile at them? (Assuming you’re a reasonable. sane person, of course.) They smile back. Don’t forget to look up and smile when you are delivering your speech or reading. A smile communicates confidence, and looking at the audience will remind you that you are talking to some lovely people, all of whom wish you well.

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The role of alcohol

Alcohol can be a useful ingredient in a successful wedding speech. But, and this is a very big BUT, the alcohol must not be drunk by you! If the wedding guests have had a few (but not too many) drinks, they will feel more relaxed and more receptive to what you are going to say. You, on the other hand, need to be fully in control of your faculties. Having any more than a couple of drinks will seriously impair your ability to deliver the speech.

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S p e a k s l o w l y!

In normal conversation, most people speak at a speed of around 150 words a minute. When we’re nervous, the tendency is to speak more quickly. That’s the exact opposite of what you should do when making a speech. Aim to reduce the speed at which you speak by about 30%, to roughly 100 words a minute.

When you are speaking to one person, the words have only to travel a foot or two, and the person you are talking to can see your every facial expression. This is obviously not possible when addressing large numbers of people. In a speech the words have to travel further, to fill a bigger space, and so need to arrive at the audience’s ears clear and uncluttered. Speaking more slowly also allows us more time to think.

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Enjoy it!

We don’t get many opportunities to say nice things in front of those we care about most. Enjoy your moment in the spotlight. And then enjoy the rest of the evening!

If you need more help with the writing, editing or delivery of your speech, why not visit Robin’s website at weddingspeechguru.co.uk? If you’re looking for the perfect wedding reading, check out these popular readings for modern wedding ceremonies.

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