My best friend is getting married this time next year and I’m terrified. I’m terrified partly because it’s giving my restless girlfriend ideas (we’ve been going out longer than he’s been with his girlfriend), but also because as best friend I’m going to have to take on certain duties – and the most nerve wracking of these is undoubtedly the prospect of giving a speech in front of everyone he knows (most of whom are people I know too) as well as the bride’s invites (who are Chinese speaking just to make life a little more complicated).
When I was younger I used to be pretty good at giving speeches. I gave the graduation speech at my university for instance, which I was chosen to do thanks to my record of good previous speeches; but it’s been a while since I last talked in front of an audience. Here then I’m going to go over a few of the tips I’ve collected previously to try and refresh my memory on just how to do it. And if you have a similar duty coming up some time soon then it may help you as well.
Keep it Flexible
In the past I’ve tried reading an exact speech off of cue cards or even pieces of paper and invariably these have been my less inspired talks. The problem with doing this is not only that it means you’re looking down and not at your audience, but also that it means you’re reading rather than talking. You’ll here be robotically regurgitating the information you see in front of you rather than actually addressing your audience, and this of course means you’re going to be much less engaging and natural in the way you talk.
What works much better is to have ideas on your cue cards but to just let these act as triggers that remind you of ideas you’ve had and of what’s coming up. This way you can keep the structure you’ve outlined and hit all your key beats, but at the same time you can improvise where you see fit and you can keep it more naturally flowing.
Remembering to talk slowly is something that’s very important if you want to sound confident and clear. When you speak slowly you naturally sound more at ease because you are taking your time, and at the same time this will make what you’re saying easier to hear. When we give speeches most of us will talk at double speed thanks to all the adrenaline pumping through our brains, so even if you think you’re talking super slowly, you might still benefit from dragging it out a little further.
Engage the Audience
When you speak it’s important to react to the audience and to involve them. First of all this means scanning the whole of the party venues with your eyes to ensure no group feels left out, but at the same time it also means reacting to what you perceive the mood of the audience to be. If you look around and someone seems to be dozing off then try to engage them by looking at them and posing a rhetorical question. Don’t forget anyone and talk with not at them.
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