In my seventeen years of weddings I’ve seen a lot of great speeches. They’ve run the gamut from tear-jerkers to pants-wetters and everything in between. This July a best man wrote his own blues tune and did a whole number (with props) while the band accompanied him. In August, I played a wedding where the best man was a stand-up comedian, I was laughing so hard I was crying by the time I had to get back up on the stage.
Unfortunately for every great speech I’ve witnessed there have been twice as many complete flops. I’ve seen drunk speeches, whispered speeches, mean speeches and embarrassing-beyond-the-realm-of-funny-speeches. You don’t have to have the oratory skills of Barack Obama to bring home a great wedding speech. You can do it, whether you’re the best man, the maid of honor, the bride, the groom or mom and dad.
You can be as straightforward and to the point as you want. If you have more experience talking in front of a large group, you can really wow the crowd with jokes, anecdotes, props and songs. Either way, knowing your limits is important.
Here are some tips for giving a great speech or toast:
- Don’t get drunk! I mean it. It’s not funny, it’s just sad.
- Speak directly into the microphone. This may seem like a no-brainer, but most people have no clue how to use a mic. You can’t hold it like a news correspondent. They have the added benefit of a lavalier mic. Check out the way they point it at the interviewee. They tilt it towards the person’s mouth. That’s what you should do, to yourself.
- If you’re worried about what to say, short and to the point usually gets it done.
- Personal stories are great, but make sure they make sense and are universally relatable.
- Stop saying um… um, ok?
- Don’t get drunk!
- If you plan on using props, keep them simple. Ask if you can stash them on the stage or bandstand before you have to get up. Oh, and don’t use the giant roll of paper trick. It’s way overdone. Not funny anymore.
- If you’re too shy to speak, ask to be let off the hook. Seriously, it’s not mandatory. I’ve seen people shake with fear up there. I’m sure everyone would rather you be comfortable than terrified, there’s always someone else in the crowd that could do it.
- Stand still. Try not to sway, shift or walk around too much. It makes people seasick, and it takes away from what you’re saying.
- Only open with a joke if it’s funny, and I mean funny when you’re sober.
- Don’t get drunk! Seriously, I didn’t write this three times by accident.
- Don’t over rehearse. If you speak from the heart it is usually best. Unless there’s a song involved, then – rehearse.
- Don’t curse. If you’re following tips 1, 6 & 10 you probably won’t, but really now, cursing is f***ed up.
- Bring your champagne with you if you intend to ask everyone to raise a glass. It looks weird if you’re the only one without one.
- Don’t run away with the microphone. When you’re done, turn around and hand it back to the person that gave it to you. We hate having to chase people.
Following these steps, planning ahead and staying focussed will help you master almost any speeching situation. Remember, everyone is on your side – and once you’re through it, you can go have a drink… but don’t get drunk!