wedding toast

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.

 

 

 

A Brilliant Wedding: Christina & David

Christina & David got a perfect day in June for their wedding! The bride rode in style in a vintage Rolls Royce to the church for their ceremony at St. Francis Xavier. After a heartfelt ceremony, the couple hopped back in the Rolls and headed to their reception at Cipriani 42nd Street. The bride stunned guests when she changed into a gorgeous, trendy white jumpsuit for the party. Guests dined on delicious Italian fare and partied on a dancefloor custom made for the couple.  After his speech, the bride's father sang a beautiful, not to mention impressive, song in honor of his daughter's marriage. At the end of the night, guests left with hand-painted ceramic plates that the bride's Italian mother commissioned just for her daughter's special day. What a beautiful family affair!

Congratulations to Christina & David!

Invitation, wedding rings, bridal bouquet, chiffon wedding dress bow bride with bouquet, embroidered cummerbund, bride in rolls royce, antique rolls royce St. Francis Exavier Church, aisle, orange bridesmaid bouquet, wedding programs Cipriani 42nd Street, Lemon centerpieces, wedding lighting Table numbers, lemons as decor, rosemary on plate with menu bride tossing bouquet, hand painted ceramic plate favors bride and groom in front of church, bride and groom in city, bride and groom in vintage rolls royce

Thank you to Ira Lippke Studios for the beautiful photographs!

A Brilliant Wedding: Gemma & Scott

Gemma and Scott originally hail from England and Australia, but wanted a New York wedding to show their out-of-town family and friends what the Big Apple is all about. They exchanged their vows at Calvary-St. George's Church before hopping into a vintage taxi that took them to meet their closest friends and family at the Gramercy Park Hotel. Upon entering the terrace, guests stepped into an enchanted garden. Beneath the romantic lights and greenery, pastel blooms were dispersed along the tables. But, even in this dream-like setting, the city was ever present. Traditional table numbers were replaced by pictures of places in NYC that were special to Gemma and Scott and guests soon danced to classic NY songs, as boas and beads were brought to the dance floor. Even the top tier of their cake was elegantly decorated with the city skyline! Despite all the big city details, Gemma and Scott did not forget where they came from. Their wedding color, violet, was chosen to honor a grandmother who couldn't make the journey to New York, while the roses in Gemma's bouquet honored another grandparent. The British and Australian flags on the front of their taxi were yet another cute way to remember their roots.

At the end of the night, guests took home violet boxes of chocolate from Vosges, the couples' favorite SoHo chocolate shop. Gemma and Scott's wedding so perfectly used cute details to blend past and present, that we can't help but love it. Congratulations Gemma and Scott!

Beautiful photos courtesy of Maggie Harkov.

Groomsmen Bouts and Matching Socks

Bouquet Rings and Jimmy Choo Shoes

Elegant Bride & Groom

Church Ceremony New York

 

Wedding Parasol Bride & Groom Kiss

Violet Blush Table Setting

Vintage Taxi New York Wedding

Ask the Expert: Wedding Speeches

Today’s post is courtesy of my secret speech-writing weapon, Victoria of The Oratory Laboratory. She is the master at creating perfectly funny, yet heartfelt speeches written in your own voice, and will coach you so your delivery is the icing on the (wedding) cake.

The Unspoken Truth of Speaking. If you’d rather fly over the Atlantic on a sofa with wings than speak in public you’re not alone. 75% of the population are terrified at the prospect of speaking before an audience and that probably includes your maid of honor, the best man and yes, even your father.

The internet provides tips galore about what to say and what not to say at weddings but seldom do you see any good advice about the delivery. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, but here are a few common pointers that you may want to gently pass on to your wedding party.

New York City Speechwriter Victoria Wellman Phillips The Oratory Laboratory

1.  Don’t try and memorize your speech. Do you think Obama doesn’t have twenty transparent teleprompters in front of him??  A speech is a contrived and well prepared form of expression- the audience are expecting you to take notes up there with you.

2.  Don’t rush. This is a story and you’re telling it for the first time to the people listening. They want to join you on this little journey so give them time to take it all in.

3.  Don’t just read the speech; connect with what you’re saying as you’re saying it. If you’re telling a story about your childhood, take yourself back and there and think about all the small the details, how you felt, who was there etc

4. Practice your speech as if you were reading it to a room full of five year olds to find the playfulness in the text. Jump up and down on your bed while shouting it, read it in a bad Scottish accent if you want. Once you have fun with it you can always rein the crazy back in.

5.  Keep your feet hip-width apart. Your bottom half should feel solid and grounded so that you’re free to gesticulate without falling about the place. If you’re leaning or swaying you lose the energy and presence that stillness creates.

6.  Before you start, take a couple of seconds to take in the room and your audience. Take a breath and begin only when you’re ready. This will ensure the audience are 100% with you from the start and you’ll feel more in control.