Research indicates 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 business or a wedding – but it will probably happen.
A few years ago I was terrified at speaking about my own business to gatherings of about 18. Now I willingly and confidently address small crowds (I haven’t got to the 1,000s stage yet).
I’d like to help make the potential ordeal of speaking at a wedding much more palatable.
Let’s just look at wedding / vow renewal-type ceremonies.
- It is better to be brief than over-long
- If you can deliver humour successfully, do so; if not, keep those jokes to a minimum.
- Avoid “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 feel exclusive.
- Don’t try an off-the-cuff speech; use notes, but look up and try and make eye contact as much as possible.
- Speak more s-l-o-w-l-y than you would expect. Smile – at least, at the beginning and end.PLUS
- Avoid controversy, whether about people present or about politics – the idea of the proceedings is to create a wonderful atmosphere, not to score points or secure cheap laughs.
- Use anecdotes, but only appropriate and relevant ones. Avoid meandering ‘shaggy dog’ stories. Don’t embarrass people (unless you’re very sure it’s OK).
- If very nervous, try a few deep breaths beforehand – and remember, the guests will be on your side, and willing you to do well.
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.
All the best,
Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made civil ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe.