One of the most important tasks for a best man, besides ensuring that the groom makes it to the church, is to make a compelling, amusing, touching speech. Now, not many people are all that confident in speaking in front of a group. Even if you know everybody present, and you’ve spoken to them all a hundred times individually before, standing up and making a speech can be quite daunting.
When I started researching this list I started looking at best man’s speeches ‘how tos’ but I soon realised that they were all just other people’s successful speeches with very little advice on how to do it yourself. So I took a different approach and started looking for scholarly advice on public speaking, speaking with confidence, even how to make small talk and copying the skills of those people who can just talk to anyone as if they’ve known them for years right off the bat.
I also looked at other areas where speaking in front of people to make a point is important. So you’ll find links to advice from lawyers, educators and comedians as well as professional speech makers.
Speaking With Confidence
People often say “imagine your audience naked!” but that doesn’t help. You could try imagining yourself nude instead. You look down and find you’re not: Relief! Now you can stop panicking about being nude in front of a crowd you’re feeling comfortable and confident again. Along with the advice to picture your audience nude, there is a lot of unhelpful, but well intentioned advice which would lead you to make a terrible speech (rapping, and rhyming poetry? Excruciating!) But here are some of the best links I found to articles that give advice on getting the confidence together to stand up and deliver in front of an audience.
Confident public speaking: How to become fearless.
Better Public Speaking.
How Can You Deal With The Fear Of Public Speaking?
Gestures and Body Language
How to Speak In Front of Large Groups of People
Overcoming shyness isn’t the same as being confident. If you are genuinely shy it is a deeply embedded personality trait which you wish to overcome. One of the most effective ways of overcoming shyness is pretending that you’re not in fact shy. Play a character that is you, but without the shyness, eventually that persona will be the real you.
How To Make Small Talk
As the best man, you’ll be expected to mingle with all of the guests, know most of, if not all of the bride and groom’s families and remember all of their names. As well as that, you’ll have to talk to everybody, make them feel at ease and entertained. Some people find this sort of thing as easy as anything and can get on with complete strangers like they’ve been friends for years. Others can only manage “Hi, how are you?” before conversation dries up completely. Once you’ve spoken to everybody at the wedding you’ll feel more comfortable when it’s your turn to make your speech. The guests you hadn’t met before are no longer strangers, now they’re acquaintances who are invested in listening to, and enjoying what you have to say.
The 10 Big Rules of Small Talk.
8 Ways to Make Meaningful Small Talk.
Master the art of small talk.
How to Make Small Talk With Strangers.
7 Ways to Make Small Talk Way More Interesting.
21 Topics for Small Talk Conversation for all occasions.
Dealing with Performance Nerves
The thing that most people fear about standing up and making a best man’s speech is drying up and making a fool of themselves. You could talk for hours about the groom, telling funny stories about your adventures in a one to one situation, but when it comes to speaking in front of an audience you mouth goes dry, your palms sweat and your mind goes blank. These links take you to sites written by people who’ve had stage fright and managed to overcome it.
Managing Presentation Nerves.
Richard Branson: How to overcome public speaking nerves.
How to Make Performance Anxiety an Asset Instead of a Liability.
Stephen Fry, stage fright and how to avoid it.
8 Tips to Overcome Stage Fright
What Should Be In The Best Man’s Speech?
A lot of the best man’s speech is just housekeeping, thanking the organisers, reading the telegrams and so forth. And because you’ll do this part first, you won’t feel that you’re just standing up to give the speech that you’ve written. Rather, you’re there to play an important part in the proceedings. The best man’s speech doesn’t have to be long, so if you’re struggling, don’t panic. We can’t all be spellbinding orators.
Writing Gags and Funny Stories
The whole point of looking up ‘writing great best man’s speeches’ was to find out how to write funny, interesting anecdotes about the groom. You want to tell funny anecdotes about how you met, why you’ve stayed friends over the years and this section should cover that. The only thing that a good story needs is a narrative, that is a strong beginning, middle and end. Talk about not only your friendship with the groom but also the bride, and how well they work together. And don’t forget while it should be amusing, it should also be heartfelt and true. It’s not a comedy routine, and it’s not about you.
Performing the Amusing Speech
Now that you’ve got all the prep under your belt, it’s time to deliver the speech. This is the moment it’s all been building up to. You’re fully rehearsed, you even have your ad libs down pat, you just need to know how to actually deliver the speech clearly, confidently and without your voice breaking, or starting to cry.
When a best man’s speech falls down, it falls down hard. It’s predictable where the speech will go wrong and these faults are obvious and easily avoidable: Lack of practise, crude or offensive jokes, overindulgence the night before… If you’re determined to give the best best man’s speech ever, take a few tips on what NOT to do!