I went to a wedding over the weekend, and had the opportunity to listen to at least 7 different speeches given by the family and friends of the happy couple. The content of all the speeches were very heartfelt and warm, and written from a place of deep caring for the couple. However, in terms of how the speeches were delivered…well, that’s where there may have been some ‘cracks in the pavement’ for a few of them.
Of course, it’s not easy to get up in front of a room of 300 people – many of them strangers – and deliver a speech. So I applaud each and every speaker for making the decision to put themselves in this situation and having the courage to give a speech.
Some speeches had an ‘edge’ to them – they were delivered loudly, clearly, and humorously. The others had some ‘issues’ – that could have been easily resolved – which would have made them even more well-received. So based on my sample size of 7 wedding speeches, here are six tips on how to give a great wedding speech, divided into 2 categories: Sound issues and delivery issues.
By far, the largest problems came from problems hearing the speakers – there was a lot of “what did she say?” going on. But there was nothing wrong with the sound system. So speakers, take note:
1. Speak into the microphone. Bring it right up to your mouth if necessary. Each sound system is different, but chances are, if it’s more than 4-5 inches away from your mouth, you won’t be heard very well by your audience.
2. Speak clearly and slowly, and don’t mumble. In person-to-person discussions, many of us speak ‘under our breath,’ meaning that our voice lowers and we don’t say things as clearly. Just as difficult to understand are the fast talkers. When we’re happy and excited, some of us tend to speak a little more quickly. While this may work with one-on-one conversations, it doesn’t when you’ve got a microphone in hand and 300 people who are straining to hear you. So slow it down and speak clearly.
3. Make eye contact with all sides of the room when speaking. Yes, the speech is about – and FOR – the bride and groom. But never forget that there’s a full audience listening to your speech, and they deserve to be addressed as well.
4. Smile, be animated and energetic, and pretend you’re happy to be there (even if you’re so nervous you want to throw up).
And don’t worry if you’re trembling and your paper is shaking. No one expects you to be perfect, and most (if not all) of the audience will give you credit for getting up there in the first place. And rest assured that there are many people in the audience who would not be willing to give a speech like you are. Ever.
FINALLY, A QUICK WORD ABOUT CONTENT:
5. Add stories. Everyone loves to hear stories about the bride and/or groom. But choose your stories carefully, and make sure that they have a relevant point. Example: “Karen was able to learn a fully choreographed dance routine in a matter of hours, which shows what a passionate and driven person she is.” Make sure that the story backs up the point you’re trying to make about the person.
6. Switch between 2nd person (“you”) and 3rd person (“John”). When you want to speak directly to the groom, feel free to do so, as in “John, I can’t believe how you lucked out with this girl.” Vary it up with speaking to the audience ABOUT Jon, as in “Who would ever believed that Jon would luck out with such an amazing girl?” This way, you’re having a conversation with the audience AND with the bride/groom, and everyone feels included.
Giving a wedding speech is no different from giving a speech in any other venue. Remember that you’re speaking to a full room of people, not simply the bride and groom. Create a speech that is heartfelt, funny, and full of stories that have a point. Rehearse extensively. And when you’re up on stage, make sure to speak loudly and clearly into the microphone. Then enjoy the kudos of delivering a memorable speech that you’ll get complimented on for a long time to come.
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Suzannah Baum, founder and president of Ideal Communications, is a public speaking trainer, presentation coach and speaker who believes that everyone can be an exceptional communicator. She has helped business leaders, entrepreneurs and academics unleash their ultimate public speaking potential. Consistently recognized for her ability to create an encouraging, trusting atmosphere that enables her clients to enhance their speaking style in a very short time, her high-rated training style gets the job done quickly and effectively.
Currently, Suzannah gives training seminars and courses at corporations, universities and non-profit organizations, and provides coaching to individuals who must deliver informational and persuasive presentations with confidence, clarity and power. She is the VP Communications of her chapter of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS), a prizewinning speaker, an advanced Toastmaster and club mentor, she is also a past Club President and active member in her local Toastmasters chapter. Many other articles on public speaking and celebrity speakers appear in her blog, the Ideal Communicator, at http://idealcommunications.ca/blog.
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