Robin Kermode, communications expert and founder of Zone2, gives us his top tips for writing a great speech.
1. Planning your speech
Don’t plan your speech too early – ultimately you want it to feel fresh so around two to three weeks beforehand is fine. Read it against the clock and out loud on your own. Work out whether you want notes, bullet points or cards. Three to five minutes long is ideal (around 150 words a minute).
2. Structuring the speech
Start and end with the same theme – this will help link your speech together. You can do this with an emotional theme or by telling a story, for example: “My daughter is amazing and I’m going to tell you why,” and then end it with “So that’s why my daughter is amazing!” If, for some reason, you forget any of the speech or your mind goes blank then you can just go straight to the ending point and usually no one will notice.
3. Remembering loved ones
You don’t want to dump all of your emotions on the audience, but you do have every right to acknowledge that someone has passed away. You can do this in a positive way rather than making it all sad and negative, for example: “She adored you, she wanted the best for you and she is here for you in spirit.”
4. Making your speech sound natural
Try to write it in your head or in note form. If you sit at the computer and write it you will end up using written sentences that are usually too long and will sound pre-written. If it is over crafted it will feel unnatural, so use normal words. Rather than saying: “It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this auspicious occasion,” say “Thanks so much for coming!”
5. Make it personal
Avoid starting your speech off with a quote. The people in the audience want to hear what you have to say, not someone else’s thoughts. Start with a personal story – it can be about you, your daughter or the groom, but this is much better than using formulas or jokes off the internet that don’t have anything to do with the wedding other than being a funny joke. You can still make your speech funny, but focus on funny stories about your daughter rather than just telling jokes.
Use your own voice – don’t put on your posh voice. Using ‘normal’ words will help you do that. If you put your speech in formal writing then you will end up sounding pompous. Writing in conversational style will help you speak normally and will help you connect more with the audience.
7. Dealing with nerves
The first thing to remember is that you are not expected to be a stand-up comedian. The best thing you can do is to go down the emotional route and keep it real and relevant. Practise lots beforehand, speak slowly and wait two seconds before you speak – this will give you time to centre yourself.