You have a best man’s, groom’s or bridesmaid’s speech to give and you’re nervous. Of course you are; it would be very strange if you weren’t. Everyone is nervous when speaking in public, even the pros. But don’t worry, here are the Wedding Speech Guru top ten tips to dealing with wedding speech nerves:
#1 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.
#2 You only have to be brave for a second
If you’re 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.
#3 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.
#4 The 3 Ps
For any speech there are three P’s 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.
Practising doesn’t mean just reading it through. You need to practise saying it out loud, several times, either with a friend or on your own. This is the only way to understand the rhythm of the piece, and which words need certain intonation and emphasis.
#5 Know who you’re speaking to
If it’s your wedding you will know who the 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 already met you they’ll get behind you all the more. You may also get some gems of last-minute material.
#6 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.
#7 Look up and smile
What do people do when you smile at them? (Okay, assuming you’re a reasonable sane person.) 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.
#8 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.
#9 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 quicker. 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 a large number of people. In a speech the words have to travel further, to fill a bigger space, and therefore need to arrive at the audience’s ears clear and uncluttered. Speaking more slowly also allows us more time to think.
#10 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!
The next step
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A version of this article originally appeared in Wedding Ideas Magazine