Remember the Olympics? The drama? The nail biting finales? Just imagine how the competitors and athletes must have felt – not unlike the groom and best man and anybody else who has to give an imposing speech at a wedding.
Yes, the wedding season is just as daunting for those ‘unaccustomed to public speaking’ who are going to have to stand up in public and say a few words. They may also feel as though they have a few hurdles to get over.
If that group includes you, you’ll want to be remembered for giving the performance of your life; a speech that combines Bradley Wiggins’s grit, Jessica Ennis’ style and Tom Daly’s magic.
We asked Lawrence Bernstein of Great Speech Writing for some tips on how to put yourself in the running for a gold medal for public speaking on a wedding day. Lawrence is the perfect person to offer advice, he has been running Great Speech Writing for over eight years and in that time has helped hundreds of people to give a cool and polished performance.
To win a Bronze, you’ll need to…
Prepare. This may sound obvious but too many people think they can create the speech of their life 24 hours before the big day. However, as with most things in life, there’s no substitute for proper preparation. This means thinking about what you want to say, gathering information and writing a number of drafts in advance.
Keep it relevant. There is nothing worse for the majority of the guests than a best man’s speech focusing exclusively on the Stag’s drinking exploits in Amsterdam dressed as Spiderman or a Father-of-the-Bride gushing about his daughter without mentioning the Groom or his side of the wedding party. Think about your audience before you put pen to paper.
Practise. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Rehearse your speech out loud over and over again, reading very slowly and emphasising key words. You want to know your speech so well that you only need to glance at your notes to remember what comes next.
Keep it short. I recommend an 8-10 minute speaking length for any wedding speech. Too many go way beyond this, creating a bored and restless audience. You especially want to keep it short and sweet if there are lots of little ones in the audience.
Stay sober. This is not to say you can’t have a drink to take the edge off your nerves. But to give a good speech you need to be sharp and clear–headed which means staying clear of the boozing until after you’ve sat down.
Don’t focus on ‘me’. It’s tempting to focus your speech on your own relationship with the person you’re speaking about. But if you labour the point too heavily, it can start to sound like narcissism and be very boring for everyone else.
To take home Silver, you’ll also need to…
Do some digging. Don’t just rely on your own material. Contact friends and family who have known the person at different stages of their lives to gather unusual insights and anecdotes.
Get the balance right between sincerity and humour. Try to map out a framework for your speech that has a good combination of the two. An over-sentimental speech can be dull. But a stand-up comedy routine can miss the point entirely.
Avoid rambling. There is no ‘perfect’ shape or style for a speech. But the key is brevity. Stay away from long paragraphs in favour of short, punchy, deliverable sentences.
Use language accessible to everyone. If people don’t understand your joke, they won’t find it funny. So don’t use a long word when a short one will do. Don’t use a clever pun if many of the guests have travelled from overseas. And don’t use slang that only a small group of your friends will understand.
To scoop the Gold, you must…
Pick a theme. Anecdotes and observations are key elements of many speeches, but they don’t always link together naturally. Choosing a theme that ties everything together can help it flow and an original and amusing theme is often the difference between a decent speech and a great one.
Consult the other speakers. Your biggest risk is covering ground that has already been mentioned in the other speeches. I would strongly recommend that however original you think your speech may be, you have a quick chat with the other speakers to ensure there is no frustrating overlap.
Check out the location. Find out where you’ll be standing, whether there will be a microphone, and if there will be somewhere to rest your notes. This will avoid nasty surprises that might keep you awake the night before.
Take it slowly: When your big moment comes, speak slowly and pause between sentences. Your audience need time to digest the story before they get the punchline. So give them time to get it.
Are you a bride-to-be thinking of making a speech on the big day? If so, check out our Readings and Speeches section for some top tips! Alternatively call Lawrence on 0208 245 8999 or visit greatspeechwriting.co.uk.