Do you have a best man’s speech looming with no idea how to start? Owen Fitzpatrick, a psychologist and an expert on Charisma, NLP and High Performance, shares some useful tips in his popular book, The Charismatic Edge. The Art of Captivating and Compelling Communication!
I’ve been lucky enough to have delivered three best-man speeches and a number of keynote and after-dinner talks. I’ve found that there seems to be a best practice in doing this kind of event. Usually you’re expected to speak in a light and relaxed way and to make a few important points about the purpose of the evening or about the people who are there.
The art of making a speech for a special occasion is about understanding what you’re there for and what’s expected of you. With this in mind, what are the most useful attitudes, actions and abilities to have?
Your audience often doesn’t expect much. As you’re not a professional speaker your audience isn’t expecting you to be hilariously funny or entertaining. This means there’s no pressure on you to perform perfectly. You’ve been asked to talk, so the fact of you talking is valuable in and of itself. Often when you’re asked to speak on special occasions it’s because of who you are and not because of what you say. So anything you say that’s informative or entertaining is a bonus.
You are in control. Remember, you are in control of the audience. You can make them stand, sit or touch their toes, and you can make them smile—all by telling them to do so.
If there are any silences or ‘embarrassing moments’, remember that nothing is embarrassing unless you make it so. What’s vital to understand is that embarrassment is something that can be avoided by thinking in a particular way. It’s possible to make every experience comfortable. You can also use certain prepared ‘saves’, such as saying, ‘Well, that didn’t go the way it was supposed to,’ when something goes wrong, which will make the audience laugh and help release the tension.
The state the audience feels itself in is up to you. You can get your audience in the right emotional state and frame of mind by going into that state yourself. Also, it’s easier to get groups to feel powerful emotions, because the emotions of the people around you tend to make you feel the same way. So, get them laughing and you’ll find that they’ll laugh as a group.
They won’t always reflect what they feel. Remember, even when your audience look serious or are frowning they will often be smiling inside. In groups people rarely look how they feel. They get trapped in a group mask in which they don’t want to stand out, so they keep still as much as possible.
The key with many special-occasion speeches is that you know at least some of the audience. Having friendly faces in the crowd makes any speech easier, as you know that they’re willing you on to succeed.
As well as having a better attitude about doing speeches for special occasions, it’s a good idea to understand what you can do to make your speech go really well.
- Dress appropriately for the occasion.
- Practise delivering the speech many times before the event. Time yourself each time.
- Stand with one foot in front of the other and avoid locking your knees. This ensures that you have solid balance and that you can turn and have depth in front of an audience.
- Breathe comfortably and effectively when you’re on stage.
- Make everything more animated. Use hand gestures and facial expressions a little bit more than normal, but do so naturally.
- As soon as you get on stage, smile and look as many of the audience members in the eye as you can. When you say hi or hello and introduce yourself, say it with as much personal warmth as possible.
- Thank all the relevant people. Most special-occasion speeches involve a lot of thank-yous. If you do this you make the special people feel special.
Whenever you’re preparing a special speech, keep the following questions in mind:
- Who do I need to thank or acknowledge?
- What do I need to say or include in my speech?
- Who are my audience?
- What do my audience want to hear?
- What do they want to feel?
- What stories can I use to entertain them while making my points?
- What context am I presenting in and what are the appropriate rules?
- Who comes before and after me?
- How do I want to start?
- How do I want to finish?
Start with a joke or quotation or powerful story to grab the audience’s attention from the very beginning. This will create a great frame for the speech and will get them listening immediately. It’s obviously also important to ensure that it relates to the theme of the speech.
Introduce yourself and do the thank-yous
Introduce yourself at the start and explain what you’re doing there. This is also an opportunity to thank the various people you need to thank.
Stories are great ways of keeping the audience engaged and interested. Think through different stories that create the kind of emotions you want in your audience.
When you quote someone it enables you to put across a point in a powerful and succinct way.
Master the art of using comedy in your speeches. It’s not just about telling jokes: it’s about being funny in how you say things.
Conclude with a memorable, attention-grabbing sentence or story. Then thank the audience before you finish.
Keep it short but appropriate
There’s usually lots happening on special occasions, so, often, the shorter the speech the better. At the same time, you’ve been asked to speak, so you need to make sure you follow through and do all that has been asked of you. The rule of thumb is to speak as long as you need to in order to do what you’ve been asked to do, but not much longer.
The Charismatic Edge. The Art of Captivating and Compelling Communication by Owen Fitzpatrick is now available from good bookshops nationwide. Also available as an ebook on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and iTunes.
About the author:
Owen Fitzpatrick is a psychologist and an expert on Charisma, NLP and High Performance. He has worked with Billionaires and Olympic Athletes and has taught tens of thousands of people in more than twenty countries how to communicate more powerfully and perform brilliantly. He is founder of the Online Charisma Training Academy and co-founder of the Irish Institute of NLP, co-author of three books with Dr Richard Bandler (co-founder of NLP). Owen has studied Strategic Negotiation in Harvard Business School, been coached by the media coach to Bill and Hillary Clinton and met Indian Gurus and Hollywood Celebrities in his quest to understand what the greatest communicators on earth do differently. For more information check out www.owenfitzpatrick.com. Owen lives in Dublin.