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One of the saddest things to overhear when a person gets up to give a speech at a wedding reception is "I'll just get this over and done with" - and of course with this negative mind-set these are the kind of feelings they radiate. Whereas what they should be saying is "I'm looking forward to this speech as a priceless gift to people I care about". When people think this way they inspire, entertain, and move people. The following tips will help ensure that the speeches at your wedding reception are uplifting and memorable. Make sure everyone doing a speech gets a copy of the following hard-earned gems:
Guests don't expect a polished professional speaker. They do expect you've given some prior thought to the message you want to convey and that you mean what you say. They will relate to you if you keep the information personal and come across as the natural, imperfect human being that you are.
The fear of a large audience is completely unfounded. These folk haven't travelled far and dressed up in their finest clothes just to bring you down and evaluate your every word and move! They're there to join you in celebrating the love between two people. The fact is you'll be talking to a group of very friendly people there to enjoy themselves!
Stay sober. Save your celebratory drinks till after your speech.
Walk forward with pride in the firm knowledge that you've earned the right to speak on the subject by way of being a parent, bride, groom, best man, or long-standing friend.
Speak real and make friends with your audience. Forget trying to be a public speaking clone. Think friendly 'informal' conversation rather than a distant 'formal' approach. This will free you from the fear of getting something wrong. Let your body and voice intuitively mirror the chemistry of the moment.
Your speech must never offend. Be brief. About four to five minutes duration would be ideal.
Plan a general path of where you want to take your listeners, with your end clearly in mind. Memorise your opening: "I'm deeply honoured for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you tonight." And memorise your ending: "Would you all please stand and join me in a toast to Jenny and Bill." For the rest, relive one or two stories from memory.
Be a storyteller. The secret is to reflect on past experiences and find the right stories for the occasion. 'Awkward' moments are fine but no dirty ones. Ask close friends and relatives for stories you can use. You could relive from memory how the groom acted strangely the day he proposed; you could relate the time little Sally upstaged the Principal at the school concert; or you could highlight the groom's generosity with the story of his willingness to help you paint your house during the holidays.
In times of great emotion it is often hard to hold back the tears. Under no circumstances apologise for feelings which are as natural as the air we breathe. As your tears flow the audiences' tears will flow with you. You'll soon regain your composure and have people laughing with you as you share one of those 'awkward' moments we can all relate to.
Always get there early and familiarise yourself with the layout and sound system. All microphones are different so get to know the one you'll be using and ask for help if necessary.
Strong lights shining directly in your eyes mean your eyes are not shadowed and your audience can see you. Don't squint and turn your head away with off-putting comments like "Gee that light's strong!" Pretend that everything is normal and look right through them.
Rehearse your talk 'live' for ten minutes or so a day from your favourite armchair. Don't try and learn it parrot-fashion by heart. Imagine yourself at the venue as the confident warm speaker you desire to be. Each time you rehearse, your words will be ever so slightly different. You'll thus create an internal comfort zone within yourself and it will no longer frighten you.
Accept the fact that it's perfectly normal to be keyed up and a little on edge before a speech - as happens in any situation when we're stretched a little. The difference now is you know what you want to say and are looking forward to sharing it with people you care about.
Order of toasts. Keeping in mind cultural differences and today's non-conformant flexibility, the following is only a guide to a traditional approach:
Duties of the Master of Ceremonies. The MC will coordinate the order of affairs at the reception without blatantly intruding or taking over. Here is a list of the MC's duties keeping in mind that people love to be led:
And remember, one of my inspirational coaching sessions will ensure your wedding speech is a priceless gift that people will talk about for years.
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