The internet is, of course, packed with tips to overcome the jitters. But if picturing your audience naked isn’t working for you, then we’ve got five simple but effective pieces of advice that should make a real difference. They sit at the centre of the one-to-one coaching sessions we run on speech delivery, which means we have seen them transform countless nervous best men, fathers of the bride and grooms into confident, powerful speakers!
Preparation is king. I once asked a successful after dinner speaker how he managed to deliver such well-received speeches time after time. His secret?
“For every minute that I speak, I spend an hour preparing.”
Fortunately, speeches at weddings typically only last between five to ten minutes! But the theory is sound.
Knowing your material well will go a long way to easing the tension you feel before addressing the room. Set aside time to read the speech aloud, as you intend to deliver it on the day. Make those sessions as realistic as possible, maybe even put on the clothes you’ll be wearing on the day. Ensure that you practise from the same speech cards or notes that you’ll use when it’s for real.
When you stand up to speak on the day you’ll feel much more relaxed, because you’ll have done it all before!
2) Deep breath, shoulders back
First of all, take a deep breath in. Now hold it.
Don’t you feel better already?
Chances are that if you’re nervous you’re also carrying a lot of tension in your shoulders and neck. Take a minute and consciously push your shoulders down. Not only will you feel more relaxed, but your posture will convey that confidence to your audience.
There’s a very simple trick you can play on your brain to help banish those public speaking nerves. Even though you might feel more like scowling, smile! The mere act of smiling can make you feel happier and more contented, even if you have to force yourself to do it. Think of it as fooling your body into a state of relaxation.
It will also help communicate to your audience that you’re at ease and comfortable with your material. After the famous 1960 presidential debate between Kennedy and Nixon, people who listened on the radio thought that Nixon had given a stronger performance, but viewers who watched the debate on TV favoured the smiling Kennedy.
Appearances matter, so smile!
4) Ease into it
There’s no need for you to launch right into your speech. If you’re worried about your voice playing up when you first open your mouth, clear your throat before starting and have a sip (just a sip!) of water or wine. Taking a moment before you address the room might feel strange, but it shouldn’t look that way. Your audience is likely to take it as a sign that you feel at ease.
If you’re still worried about your voice sounding squeaky when you begin, ask the room if they can hear you at the back. That gives you an easy opening that isn’t the first line of your speech. Once you’ve warmed yourself up in this way, you’re likely to find it much easier to carry on with confidence!
5) Enjoy it!
Whether you’re the father of the bride, the groom, the best man, or someone else entirely, giving a speech at a wedding is fundamentally standing up for a few minutes and talking about the people closest to your heart. If you’ve ever been cornered by a proud father keen to tell you all about his kids, you’ll know that people do that all the time! The only difference is that you’ll have an audience.
A wedding speech is one of the few socially acceptable opportunities to talk for a solid ten minutes about how happy, fun, successful, and all-round excellent your nearest and dearest are, so make the most of it! If the audience can see that you’re having a good time, then they’re much more likely to have a good time themselves.
If you still feel like your heart is going to leap out of your throat at the mere prospect of giving a wedding speech, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, Lawrence Bernstein, at greatspeechwriting.co.uk! Whether it’s prepping your delivery or writing the speech itself, I have years of experience putting pre-wedding speech worries to rest and can help you.