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How to speak at a wedding

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When it comes to best-man duties (or any other duties at a wedding for that matter) the task of speaking publicly makes even the most confident men want to change their name and emigrate. However, these are not responsibilities to be shirked. So, to help you conquer the fear, we spoke to Maggie Sawkins on the essentials of getting it right.

"What is it that makes good speakers seem so effortless? The adrenaline has a job to do, fear and excitement being two sides of the same coin. Surprising as it may seem, we don’t have to feel supremely confident. But we do need to act with confidence in order to pull off a professional performance and give them our best..."

1. Looks: People guess masses from your appearance. Stand tall, dress smart, look them in the eye and smile. Reduce any visual distractions, e.g. holding big sheets of paper. Instead, use small index cards with key words only.

2. Start as you mean to go on: Start with a challenge, a funny line or a quote from your Grandma, Mother Teresa or Malcolm X. People switch off when they hear, ‘I won’t make this very long…’ or ‘Most of you know that I’m…’ It’s vital to open and close with stuff that grabs their attention.

3. Message: Have a plan: choose a three-part structure for what you want to say, whether it’s for 30 minutes or 30 seconds. Use short anecdotes from your experience to make your points or illustrate your key theme or message. Speak from the heart and your audience will get it, enjoy themselves and love you.

4. Pace yourself: Show you mean business: taking your time creates a professional persona. Pause before you begin (breathe out) look directly at people, not at the floor, the ceiling or a point on the wall behind them. Pauses are powerful: replace any ‘ums’ or ‘ers’ with silence – a pause is much more credible– and gives your listeners a chance to digest your words.

5. End with a flourish: This is where you are re-stating the essential ‘message’ or theme of your speech. Increase your volume so they catch every last word. Stay still for 5-10 seconds, smile and keep eye contact whilst you receive your applause. Then you can sit down and bask in doing the thing that has made someone else’s day!

maggiesawkins.co.uk/public-speaking-coaching

Image: Allstar

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