As if writing a great speech isn’t enough of an achievement, guess what? Now you’ve got to read the thing out.
First of all, we cannot emphasise this enough; it is more than acceptable to use notes or cue cards when reading your wedding speech in front of an audience. This isn’t the West End. No one will pick you up on using flashcards. In fact, we even have a BLOG on this very topic. (Though remember, reading a speech off your mobile phone in ANY circumstance is a BIG no no.)
However, we can’t deny that you do look pretty awesome if you manage to memorise your speech and perform it ‘off-book’. This allows you to focus on the delivery, maintain eye contact and generally entertain your adoring masses.
Here’s what you need to do. Eight steps to embedding your speech in that noggin of yours.
1 – GO LOUD AND GO PROUD
It’s hardly revolutionary, but if you want the speech to get stuck in your head, keep reading it out loud to anyone who’ll listen: your mum, your best friend, even your cat. Anyone will do. Experts say vocalising something gives us up to 10% better memory retention. And that’s better than nothing!
No one around? Then record the speech on a phone and watch it back as much as you can. Yes, you’ll have to put up with your own voice, but it’ll be worth it.
2 – GET IT WRITE
Write your speech out again and again. Sure, it’s a waste of paper, but we tend to memorise things better when keeping active, so the act of writing it out repeatedly will help it stick.
When practising your speech, don’t beat yourself up if you miss the odd word. You don’t have to recite it word correctly! Speeches sound better when they seem less rehearsed and more ad lib. So remember the key details and freestyle around it.
3 – SLEEP ON IT
If you’re still nervous the night before – and who wouldn’t be – make sure you have a good night’s sleep. Our brain performs better with rest, and you’ll appreciate it the next day when you’re up dancing till midnight.
But also, before you go to bed, rehearse it another couple of times. Oddly, neuroscientists have revealed sleep helps consolidate newly acquired information. It’s a win-win!
4 – PREPARE FOR BRAIN FREEZE
Step one and two should put you in a pretty good shape for the big day. But, sorry to break it to you, even if you’ve been able to deliver the speech 100 times perfectly, doing it in front of a big audience is an entirely different matter.
Even when we work with people who regularly deliver business presentations, we advise them to have back up notes. So make sure even if you’re the most confident speaker around, always have those notes in your suit pocket, whether you plan to use them or not.
5 – KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON
The more confident you feel the more confident everyone else will feel. So how do you do that? Well, firstly, you don’t have to imagine everyone naked (I mean if you really want to, go ahead, I can’t stop you). But taking deep breaths to calm yourself down will help, as will delivering your words slowly and avoiding coffee or alcohol beforehand. Yes, I’m afraid the idea of Dutch Courage is a myth. Alcohol increases stress.
Ultimately, everyone in the room supports you and wants you to do well. Focus on making your audience laugh and trying to move them, as opposed to thinking about yourself.
6 – DRINK UP
Whether it’s due to nerves or not, if you have a memory lapse, your trusty glass of water can help. Just have a sip, and you’ve bought yourself a couple of seconds to get your plan back together.
But don’t use this time to panic. Instead…
7 – FILL IN THE BLANKS
Silence is terrifying for an audience, so try to fill it. Remember no one else knows what you were planning on saying so you can make anything up!
You can either retrace your steps and summarise the point you just made – or try to think of something relevant to your speech even if it wasn’t what you were planning to say.
Your mind will subconsciously start searching for good content. Who knows, you may even say something better than you intended!
8 – FESS UP WITH HUMOUR
Losing your train of thought is not a sign of failure. Think of it like a conversation with a friend – if you draw a blank, it doesn’t matter, does it? This is precisely the same. Except it’s a conversation with fifty friends.
As long as you brush off your lapse with confidence, then you’ll still look like a pro – maybe even a more likeable one. Much like comedians can get as much of a laugh acknowledging their joke didn’t go as planned – have a line to hand, e.g. ‘Oops – I’ve forgotten what I was about to say. I hate it when that happens. Though my husband seems to like it.’
Get the audience laughing and then just refer to your notes.
Follow our steps and, even if you don’t memorise it as well as you hoped, you’ll give a memorable speech, armed with all the ammunition to deal with any of those pesky slip-ups.
Still having doubts about performing in front of an audience? Try our Speechy Delivery Service.