As a professional wedding speechwriter I’m often asked for my top tips for delivering a great speech so I've pulled together my favourite six.
1. Practice but don’t memorise
Don’t feel you have to memorise your speech because you will only trip yourself up if you try. That’s not to say you shouldn’t practice. You should – a LOT. The trick is to know your speech well enough so that you only need to refer to your notes to jog your memory. The more you can look up and connect with the audience, the better.
2. Turn nervousness into excitement
Remember it’s a privilege to get up and tell the people you care about how important they are to you so try to look forward to it. You’d be surprised at what a different this change in mindset can make. When you think about it, anxiety and excitement feel very similar: butterflies in your stomach, sweaty palms, increased heart rate. Don’t try to squash the feeling just try to refocus that nervous energy.
3. Resist the urge to start speaking right away
This one is a great tip from Simon Sinek, one of the TED’s most-watch talk presenters. He says, “A lot of people start talking right away out of nerves. Take a deep breath, find your place, wait a few seconds and begin. It may feel excruciatingly awkward but nobody notices this and it helps you gather your thoughts and shows the audience you’re totally confident and in charge of the situation.”
4. Slow it down...a lot
When you’re nervous there is a tendency to speak too fast. Your heart is usually racing and so your words follow suit. The problem with this is when you don’t leave any pauses in between your sentences you make it really hard for your audience to follow what you’re saying. Make a conscious effort to slow down and don't worry, you’re not speaking as slowly as you think you are.
5. Make eye contact with audience members one by one
Richard Branson once said that when you need to speak in front of a crowd, close your mind to the fact that you’re on a stage with hundreds of people watching you and instead imagine yourself in a situation where you’d be comfortable speaking to a group. He likes to imagine he’s in a dining room telling a story to friends over dinner. Work your way around the room making eye contact with each person and it will feel more like an intimate conversation.
6. Remember that the audience likes you
Remember, at a wedding everyone in the audience is there in high spirits and full to brim with good will. They aren’t there to heckle you and they’re not expecting a perfectly polished performance. They want to hear from and want you to do well so try not to be too hard on yourself. Relax and enjoy the moment.
What about you? Can you share any great tips that have worked for you?