A wedding is a joyous occasion for the bride and groom, their family and friends. But there are some people for whom the wedding reception holds a challenge unlike almost any other. The cause of their fear is simple: they’re going to have to make a speech!
Anxiety about public speaking can afflict people from all walks of life. Some people fear that the audience will be hostile; others, that they will dry up or be humiliated in some way. For many of us, it’s just an unspoken terror to be avoided at all costs.
It’s sad that a social phobia like this should have the power to spoil one’s enjoyment of the wedding celebrations. If you’re the father of the bride, the groom or the best man — or indeed anyone who’s planning to stand up and speak to the assembled guests — you’re certainly not alone in feeling apprehensive. But help is at hand!
Any actor accustomed to first night nerves knows that the physical signs of fear are natural symptoms that can be managed with the right preparation and mind-set. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a ‘natural performer’, there are simple techniques that you can learn to get you through the apprehension that sometimes goes with public speaking.
If you’ve got a wedding speech coming up and frankly dread the thought, here are seven ideas to help you beat the jitters:
1. Nervousness is natural and to be expected. Even the most seasoned performers experience it from time to time. Don’t be thrown by the feeling or attempt to blot it out — instead, why not try to use the energy that comes from the feeling to give your delivery a boost?
2. Learn to recognize the symptoms and manage them. For example, you may find yourself taking faster, shallower breaths, so allow yourself a moment to breathe slowly and deeply before you start to speak to help you relax.
3. Plan your speech to suit your audience. Your confidence will be bolstered by a warm and appreciative response from the party — so choose a theme that will appeal to a cross-section of your listeners. Don’t be tempted to tell risque stories or jokes that may offend a particular group of guests. Get to know the family on both sides in order to choose appropriate material.
4. Know that the audience is on your side and wants you to succeed. You may regard making a speech as a test of courage — but the majority of the wedding reception guests will be feeling relaxed and looking forward to hearing you. Think of the audience as a group of friends, even if you don’t know everyone: address the whole room by looking individuals in the eye as you speak.
5. Begin with a simple joke that everyone can enjoy. Relax yourself by relaxing your audience. A funny but inoffensive story about the wedding couple (or about yourself!) adds a personal touch and will get your speech off to a good start — and there’s nothing like a warm audience response to help settle your nerves.
6. Keep it short and sweet. The best speeches always leave the audience hoping for more. Once you hit your stride, you’ll be surprised how quickly the time passes. It’s quite easy to fall into the trap of going on too long, so decide in advance on a safe time limit and practice your speech with a stopwatch to judge how long it will really last.
7. Memorize as much of your speech as possible. Even if you can’t deliver it entirely from memory, try to confine yourself to a few notes. These prompts will help you to recall the main points, and will give you the opportunity to connect with your audience by looking at their faces rather than at a script.