1. Be self-deprecating
When you’re doing a best man speech, the first lesson is that self-deprecation is always good. If you’ve got a funny little joke about being nervous, it’s the perfect way to start. I normally try to get a laugh early on, because once you do, it not only relaxes you, but it relaxes the audience.
2. It’s not you, it’s the British
When public speaking goes down badly, especially with the British public, it’s not because they dislike you, it’s because they wanted you to be good and if it’s not good, they start to feel uncomfortable. It’s more a feeling of cringe than disgust. American and Australian audiences will generally try to encourage you and give support because they want to keep the atmosphere up, but Brits are special in that they like to bathe in the awkwardness, really sit in it.
Practise, practise, practise. This is the best advice with any sort of public speaking, which is disappointing because it’s obvious. But it’s true: the more you do it, the better at it you become. The fear before and the self-loathing afterwards reduce dramatically each time you do it. You don’t have to memorise it word for word, but if you know the main bullet points of what you want to get across, you can concentrate on things such as little ad-libs and controlling your nerves.
4. Be honest
If you are nervous, don’t try to cover it up by pretending to be overconfident or verbose because it’s a giveaway and people won’t warm to you. Being honest and true to yourself will not only calm you down, it will also help you resonate with the audience.
5. Avoid A4
If you need it written down, stick to cue cards. Even if your voice is steady, a big piece of floppy A4 paper will go like the clappers if you’ve got some nerves. The audience will spot that and know you’re nervous, which will make them feel bad – then the awkward tension begins. And don’t worry: if something does go wrong, reference it, have a laugh about it, then move on as quickly as possible.
Iain is touring U Ok Hun? X until 2 December. His first book Not Ready To Adult Yet is out now. iaindoesjokes.com