Of all the fears faced by humans, public speaking is No.1. Yes, believe it or not, we fear speaking in front of a group more than heights, bugs, financial woes and even DEATH, which comes in at a mere No.7 on humanity’s list of greatest terrors.
So, whether you’re a groom, a bride, a bridesmaid or a best man contemplating writing – and then delivering – a speech at a loved-one’s wedding, you’re not alone in being terrified, but you don’t have to be!
Here are some tips for overcoming your wedding speech nerves
1. Be prepared
Have you ever had one of those dreams where you had a presentation for class or work, only to find out to your dismay that you were missing some key articles of clothing?
These dreams may seem humorous and nonsensical, but they play on a very real part in anxiety because they throw up your subconscious fears of being unprepared and ‘naked’ in front of others.
So, even though you know (and dread) the job ahead of you, you still procrastinate – right up until the last minute – in the hopes of avoiding some of the initial anxiety associated with making a speech, but you’re just setting yourself up for a big dose of preparation anxiety.
In fact, you’ll probably find yourself thinking destabilizing thoughts such as, “Did I do enough to prepare?” or “I am soooo not ready for this” but that’s all such thoughts do, they absolutely undermine you, leading to even more stress.
When you have a public speaking task to prepare for, such as, well, writing a wedding speech, getting it all done ahead of time and practicing in front of a mirror, a friend or a trusted pet can really alleviate those last minute panics about whether you’re ready or not.
If you’ve done everything you can to prepare and you’re still freaking out about having to speak in front of a bunch of strangers, then it’s time to move on to the next step.
Yeah, yeah. We know what you’re thinking: How am I supposed to relax when dozens, if not hundreds, of people are about to have their eyes all over me, judging me?
Well guess what, that just isn’t the case. It would be totally normal to be stressed and anxious if you were in a room where everyone was your worst, most judgemental enemy, but you are not!
Your first step towards relaxing therefore is to realize that this isn’t what delivering a wedding speech is like at all. You’re not talking to a group of business investors pitching a new idea, or delivering a presentation in school, you’re discussing your friendship with the wedding couple in front of a very receptive and most likely buzzed group of family members and friends.
Everyone’s loved up – and looking for a fabulous, memorable time with their closest friends and family, of which you are, obviously, a very big part if you’ve been asked to deliver an all-important speech at someone’s wedding reception!
Remember that because, suddenly, it’s all starting to look like less of a presentation and more of a conversation, right?
Sure, everyone will be looking at you, but they will be looking forward to you speaking and telling them something they don’t know about the bride and groom, or reminding them of something funny about someone related to them.
If all else fails in your attempt to relax, try some basic relaxation exercises to lower your heart rate and blood pressure, like simply stretching or taking slow, calm, deep breaths.
So, now that you think about it, you’ve actually got it made. You’ve got a receptive crowd, everyone’s in a festive mood, everyone’s looking for a little light-hearted fun and, well, you’re loved! So breathe, stand up straight and start speaking!
It’ll actually be over faster than you realise!
Deliver the goods
What exactly does it mean to “deliver the goods” when it comes to speeches?
In short, it means give a damn good one!
To deliver on a speech, one must first make sure that they have all the elements of public speaking down; you should project loud enough to be heard by the people in the back of a room, but not so loud that you’re making those in the front go deaf; you should be enunciating enough to be understood, but not so much that the bride and groom need a umbrella and, last but not least, you should stand up straight and make eye contact with the crowd.
We cannot stress how important it is to make good eye contact. A professional trick is to try to make eye contact with every member of the crowd at least once.
Now, depending on the length of your speech and the size of the crowd, this might be impossible to do, or not enough to ensure good eye contact but, in such cases, try to make eye contact with large sections of a room!
Also, go over your speech and ensure it suits the wedding guest crowd. Are you talking about a time the groom went home with a stripper in the presence of his parents, grandparents – and new wife? Or, perhaps, you’re intending to regale the crowd with tales of the bride’s teenage experiments
If your speech will be inappropriate for the audience, not only will your speech bomb, but you might just find yourself without a friend or two. So be a little sensitive to the crowd receiving your speech.
As a general rule, if you wouldn’t say it in a conversation, don’t put it in your speech. Yes, these juicy little tid bits may make your speech more interesting – and induce a few giggles – but it’s just not worth embarrassing your friend at their own wedding or, potentially, loosing them.
These are our three favourite tips for getting over your public speaking nerves and, by taking heed of them, you should be able to deliver a killer speech at any event, be it a wedding, a business presentation or just a family dinner!
Oh, and if all else fails, remember to breathe and keep going. Everything, comes to an end and you’ll be back to doing the Macarena on the dance floor with the bride and groom in no time.
What’s your best tip for overcoming your wedding speech anxiety?