The term ‘public speaking’ strikes fear into most people’s hearts, but sometimes it’s just got to be done. If someone has asked you to step up to the microphone, be it at a friend’s wedding or your grandmother’s 89th birthday, you need to do more than just imagine the audience naked and hope for the best. We all know what makes a bad speech (it’s cringing, lots of cringing), but what does a good speech consist of? Here is the recipe to get public speaking right every time:
Have three main points Speeches are a fun part of the night, sure, but no-one ever wishes they went on for longer, so keep it short. Think of three main points you want to make and base it around them, trying to keep it all under five minutes. Open with some history (like a humorous or touching story that will have everyone going, ‘Ah, classic Caitlyn!’, provided the event is to celebrate Caitlyn). Point two should be about the present, centring around why you are all here today (perhaps a sweet story about the happy couple, or a reason why you are glad your best friend made it to her 30th). Lastly, finish with a thoughtful wish for the future. Raise your glass and watch how everyone follows suit. You are so powerful and you nailed this speech. Cheers.
Know how to differentiate between jokes and personal jokes Watching someone tell a story that totally bombs, leaving them to mumble, ‘I guess you had to be there’, is agonising. Don’t put your audience through that. Anecdotes are great, just be sure that they are objectively enjoyable. Imagine hearing a stranger telling the same story and whether or not you’d be entertained. Better yet, test it out on another friend before taking it to the stage.
Don’t over-share You might think that the story of how the bride lost her virginity is a must to include in your speech. Trust us, it isn’t. And neither is any other awkward or risky story, unless you want your audience to pass away from second-hand embarrassment. Consider who your audience is going to be and choose your words accordingly. Don’t reference past lovers in a wedding speech (EVER, no exceptions) and don’t share risqué stories if you know there are going to be old people in the room who will feel uncomfortable (and who don’t even know what a beer bong is, anyway). While it might be really funny for you to see your mate squirming in their chair, it could put a dampener on the whole event.
Make it about them, not you This usually applies to people who *love* public speaking, but only because it means the attention is on them. Check that your speech centres around them, and not their relationship to you. Replace ‘She helps me out of the messy situations that I always seem to get myself into; I’m so crazy!’ with ‘She’s a loyal friend who would help anyone in a crisis’. No-one came here to hear about you and your life, soz.
Plan and practice I don’t care if you were really good at improv in high-school drama, you need to write your speech down. Cue cards are good and fit into your bag, while a big double-sided piece of paper of scribblings is only going to make your audience groan internally. Using your phone is unacceptable. It just doesn’t look good and the old people in the room will think you’re being rude playing on ‘What’s Up’ while you’re supposed to be giving a speech. Once you’ve got your speech sorted, you need to test it out on someone you trust will be real with you (but won’t crush your confidence while doing so).
Just remember that the only person who really matters is whoever you are giving your speech about. As long as you make them feel loved and appreciated, you did a great job!