The art of public speaking is one that claims to be able to be taught in classrooms and perfected with practice. Yet, leaves most us feeling like it’s some form of Chinese torture, where a single drop of water drops on our head for the rest of our lives. Being asked to speak at someone’s special event is an honor that they chose to give you. You should not only be proud, but grateful that someone finds you special enough to speak on behalf of one of the most important occasions in their lives. If the idea of making a speech has you crawling out of your skin
then here’s our advice on how to become the MLK Jr of your occasion and nail your speech.
Remember the obvious. It may seem like a no-brainer to mention how proud you are, how amazing the ceremony was, or how happy you are for the happy couple, but in the heat of the moment you may forget to mention these necessities. People love to feel special and adored, so remind them how happy everyone is to be there supporting them and how amazing everyone looks.
Know Your Audience. Whether you’re speaking at your kid’s bar mitzvah, or at your best friend’s rehearsal dinner, it is essential to know who you are speaking to in order to really speak to and connect to your audience. Make your content relevant and relative to the age group and context of your speech. If you talk about things that don’t relate or that not everyone can relate to, the power of your message won’t be as effective
Like a presidential speech, a wedding toast or celebration speech has a beginning, middle, and an end. Don’t plan to offer an impromptu wedding toast unless you’re very good at thinking on your feet, which chances are, after a few glasses of champagne you won’t be as slick as you think you are. Plan your speech out, reread and rewrite again and again until it flows and makes sense and sounds like you.
Stick to the general rule of two drinks, five-minute maximum. Don’t let minor details like being wasted or rambling on ruin your big speech. The two-drink, five-minute maximum rule will keep you in check. Make sure you’ve only had two drinks before giving your speech. That’s enough to feel a warm buzz, but not too much to have you slurring your words and making untoward jokes. Also, keep things short and sweet. Five minutes is the perfect time for a speech long enough to feel satisfying, short enough to keep guests from dozing off. Enlist someone at your table to be your timekeeper and give you a discreet signal when you are approaching your five-minute mark.
Rely on preparation, not inspiration. Perfecting your speech is all about preparation. No matter how much you want to “wing it” and “roll with the punches,” your speech will not come out as natural as you are thinking, especially if you’ve been sipping on drinks all night. There was wine. There was family. There was emotion. All things that could make even the most seasoned speech giver forget the brilliant speech she had prepped. It isn’t wrong to make notecards, and we suggest even writing your speech down word for word to look at for reference.
Relate to everyone. Keep inside jokes and references that only your core group of friends will understand to a minimum. Get some brownie points and give a shout-out to any “VIP” types—extremely old relatives, people who travelled a long way to get there and so on. Don’t reveal anything embarrassing, that is just bad form and not even that funny. Definitely keep it light, but not raunchy and go with the general rule of WGFTF (Would Grandma find this funny)?