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Tips on Public Speaking

Best Man, Maid of Honor, work conferences, meetings -- we all know that there's nothing worse than a boring or unprepared speech.  I've given talks in front of hundreds of people at industry conferences but the toughest and most important speech that I ever made was as Matron of Honor at my sister's wedding. These tips are for anyone giving a speech or presentation  of any kind.  Click on the video at the bottom to see if I managed to hold back the tears during my Matron of Honor speech. Did I miss any public speaking tips? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

Sarah Maid of Honor Speech

1. Tell a Story.  Everyone loves a great story and it's much easier to remember a story than a list of facts and figures. Interweave the facts portion of your speech with parts of a compelling story or a series of compelling stories that illustrate your point. Here's a good example from Malcolm Gladwell.

2.  Practice.  I find it offensive when people "wing it" at wedding speeches. It's a special day for your loved one and you will have the attention of more people than you may ever for the rest of your life. Maybe that sounds harsh, but I've seen far too many awful, train-wreck or downright boring speeches. It's also frustrating when I attend a conference or event and it's clear that the speaker hasn't rehearsed.

3.  Stand in 3 Places.  It's distracting to wander around the stage and can become a nervous habit. Choose up to three landing points on the stage and move between those three. Sheryl Sandberg does a decent job of this here.

4.  Intonation.  Use different tones of voice. Vary your pitch up and down. Mix it up with some loud parts and some almost-whispers. You'll feel like a fool practicing it but it'll make for a more engaging presentation.

5.  Words on Slides. Don't do it.  Instead of words, use just images. You know why TedTalks are so engaging? Because they don't read bullet points off of slides. When you have words on the slide, viewers are reading the words instead of listening to you. Let's hope this applies only to conference-type speeches and not wedding speeches.

6. Better yet...no slides.  Seriously. Try it.

7.  Memorize It (maybe).  For smaller-scale, emotional speeches like a Best Man or Maid of Honor speech, you should read from your notes. But for a large conference-style speech, you need to know it from memory. Here's my memorization process:

+write out the speech and interweave stories that I tell that I already know by heart (no new memorization required for that part)

+practice reading it a zillion times: to myself and out loud

+write down the first sentence of each section on an index card

+practice going start to finish without stopping using just the index card...regardless of if I make a mistake

With this approach, I know the order of things, and once I get started with the section, I remember what part of the story I'm telling. When I'm nervous, I tend to go blank at transition points, so having the first sentence of each section reignites my memory.

8.  Technical Difficulties.  There are bound to be technical difficulties with any presentation. Always travel with your own adapters, arrive super early to test your slides, and don't rely on a solid internet connection - save your presentation and any audio or visual onto your desktop. When something inevitably goes wrong, do like Steve Jobs and have a funny story to stall while the tech team fixes it.

Amy and Justin Featurette from Best Man Media on Vimeo.

 

 

 

Recent Favorites: Fun Wedding Food

Food is always a crowd pleaser. Here is just a sample of some food highlights from our recent clients. Pretzels with labels that said "Kim and Bill tied the knot," jars of locally made honey with tags saying "Love is Sweet," a giant periodic table of macarons and test tubes with candied sunflower seeds for a couple who work as scientists and gourmet ice cream sandwiches with edible labels.

Fun Wedding Food

 

Photos by Christian Oth Studios, Daniel J Photography, Brian Dorsey Photography.

Cylinder Vase Veto for Aisle Decor

Broken shards of glass, pools of water and a fire hazard are not exactly the hallmarks of a dream wedding day.  Experience has taught us that cylinder vases filled with water and a floating candle lining your ceremony aisle are a disaster waiting to happen.  Chances are that one of your excited wedding guests will knock over one of these vases while finding their seat, fidgeting during the ceremony or while applauding during your recessional.  The mess created is not only hazardous, but could interrupt your ceremony in a very bad way. Just one easy, pretty and safer candlelit alternative? Try lanterns hanging from wrought-iron shepherds hooks! Alternatives to Aisle Vases Wedding Ceremony

Image sources one and two.

Wedding Ceremony Exit Tips

We've all seen those incredible photos of couples exiting their ceremony or reception with sparklers, bubbles, confetti or rice.  What you may not know is that those moments have usually been carefully orchestrated behind-the-scenes!  Here are a few tips:

  • -Before you order anything, make sure your venue allows it.  Many venues restrict confetti or sparklers for clean-up reasons or fire hazard reasons.
  • -If you're tossing something outside, make sure it's environmentally friendly.  Rice can be very hazardous to birds.  A better alternative is bird seed or a special type of rice that crushes underfoot and dissolves in water.
  • -Recruit some "ringers" to start the trend of the bubbles/confetti/etc. Otherwise you'll be down the aisle before anyone has tossed their confetti!
  • -Check everything beforehand and unwrap it or open up any seals.  Many times bubbles come with a silver seal that will impede timely bubble-making as you head down the aisle.

Confetti Bubbles & Rice at Wedding Ceremony

Photos courtesy of  Snippet & Ink, ZLynn, Violet & Earnest.

Beware of Sunsets

Every bride and groom dream of a great party at their wedding reception, and in most cases, that dream includes a packed dancefloor.  Keep the dancefloor full by planning your reception start time with sunset in mind - this is especially important in the summer months when the sun doesn't go down until around 8:30pm. Think about it: your favorite club doesn't have fluorescent lightbulbs or natural light streaming in because people prefer to dance in darker, ambient atmospheres.  Too much light makes people self conscious and shy, and your dancefloor will be anemic as a result.  Also, any candlelight you've used in your decor won't have any impact if your reception space is flooded with natural light.  If your venue has any kind of windows, use this sunset calculator to determine when the sun will go down and schedule your reception accordingly.

Sunset Wedding Ceremony

 

Photo courtesy of Italian Weddings.