Reluctant Public Speaker

(April 2017)

Every day, thousands of men and women are forced to take to the stage and pontificate at length about spreadsheets, gender-neutral horses or their brand-new son-in-law. Some people relish the opportunity, such as natural born public speakers or cocaine addicts. But for many, the thought of being the centre of attention brings them out in a cold sweat.

However, just because you're a nervous wreck, that doesn't mean your speech has to be rubbish. There are plenty of ways a reluctant public speaker can handle such an occasion with panache, so let's take a look at a few solutions for those forced to do speeches against their will.

Be self-aware

Do you stammer when you talk in public? Perhaps your delivery is all off, or your memory is so bad you'll need to constantly refer to your notes throughout. Don't worry about it, and certainly don't try to hide it! By making your audience aware of your failings, Icebreaker for a reluctant groom as this groom does here, you'll also show them that you are aware of them too. Don't be afraid to mock yourself, because there are plenty of laughs to be made out of your uncomfortable situation.

  1. "As I trip over my words some of you might be thinking oh, poor guy, he seems really nervous up there. Well actually that's not true, it's just that I stammer every time I remember what this all cost."

  1. "To combat the stress of delivering this speech I've gone through 18 individual stress balls. Then I found out you weren't supposed to chew them, and ironically that helped, because now I'm more worried about that than speaking to you guys."

Keep it short

Short jokes with simple setups work best if your timing is a little off, and this goes for your anecdotes too. Anything too lengthy and you risk forgetting some of the key points, so give yourself a helping hand by putting some serious time into editing your script down. This next line shows you just how much impact a quick joke at your own expense can really settle things down.

  1. "Hi everyone. I'm Dom. I was really nervous about doing this speech, but then I found some red pills in Grandma Jean's coat pocket and now everything's in slow motion and I can taste colours."

  1. "This is a day of firsts for me. First time I've been best man, first time John's bought me dinner, this is my first ever speech, and it's also been the first time I've gone through eight pairs of boxers in a 24 hour period."

Deflect the attention

This may sound counterintuitive since you're the one doing the talking, but you can easily shine the spotlight on someone else by changing the audience's focus. Gags about the father of the bride will make everyone look immediately in his direction, and the same goes for the groom, the best man or the bride.

  1. "Doing this speech I feel like Kian must have felt the first time he met up with Lily. Nervous with excitement, a little bit sweaty, and praying to God that it's as good in real life as it looked on the internet."

  1. "I feel an affinity with Leanne, especially because of this speech. Just before I came up here, Nick whispered something in my ear, and I suspect he'll whisper the same thing to Leanne just before the wedding night kicks off. 'Good luck, it's all up to you now."

Start with a bang

If your speech begins well then the audience will forgive any stumbles or missed cues, so make sure you take extra time to ramp up the impact of your opening lines. This line not only kicks things off with a fun anecdote, but it also instils in everyone the idea that your speech is actually good… because you've told them it is! Maintaining a positive demeanour is key here, because if you drone on and on about how anxious you are and how bad your speech is, people will start to believe you.

  1. "Afternoon folks. I am Tim, and I first met Liz when I started chatting her up on a night out. This was a deliberate wingman move before Chris went in for the kill. I was your token minging short-arse you see, the one who makes your mate look taller and better looking by comparison. Sadly, tradition dictates I couldn't pull the same trick today to make his speech less rubbish."

  1. "Ladies and Gentlemen, for those who don't know me, my name is Dave. I'm the Best Man. How do you do. And for those of you who do know me. Yes I know. It's me. Dave. I'm the Best Man. How the hell did this happen?"

Plan Your Way

Confidence doesn't just come out of nowhere; it is earned through effort and persistence. If you practice and learn your speech over and over again your delivery will be smoother, your demeanour more relaxed and you'll know exactly where to go back to if you need to stop for applause or ad-libs. A properly planned script with structure will help you remember your speech even quicker, so why not consider a theme to tie everything together, or perhaps you could do things chronologically to give it all a natural order. Anything you can do to help remember and organise your speech is a wise move, especially for an unconfident speaker.

  1. "Right now I'm thinking two things. First, should I mention that story about the horse's erection? And second, I wish I paid the extra 10 quid and got the bloke who wrote (Groom)'s speech to do mine as well."

  1. "So here we are, the end of my speech. I hope it's met your expectations Mr and Mrs Tyldesley, and I hope it's given everyone here some insight into what these two mean to each other and what they mean to their friends too. In case you've any doubt as to what kind of relationship we all have, just bear this in mind. Before my speech Vicki came up to me with the kind of advice only she could give. "Pat, she said, I just want you to be yourself. Don't try to be clever or entertaining."