I wrote a few months back about overcoming nerves for speech making at a wedding; I’m not an expert but rather was simply drawing from years of experience in acting and public speaking. I was delighted to get in contact with Emma Coogan, an expression coach who runs the Emma Coogan School of Speech & Drama. Emma has kindly given us some of her top tips for making a wedding speech and how to express yourself in a way that will engage the audience while putting you at ease!
As an Expression Coach I work with clients all the time as they prepare to make a wedding speech.For starters, I like to focus on 6 main points. To help clients remember them I use the acronym SPOUSE.
Slow down: Slowing down allows you to speak clearly, to stay calm, to finish words and it allows you to add change and colour to your voice. When we speak, we are a little ahead of our listener, so slowing down allows them to keep up with our words. When we get nervous, we always speed up the rate of our speech, so when practicing, slow it down even more, to allow for that extra speed!
Pause: Pause is even more important than Slowing Down. Pausing allows you to take a breath, (or just a breather!), it allows the audience to absorb what you have said and it can be used to create effect. For example, you can use a pause to allow a particularly poignant moment to sink in, or you can use it to create suspense, for example on the punch line of a joke. Too often I’ve heard hilarious stories fall flat, not because the story wasn’t funny, but because the speaker did not “set up” the punch line, to allow the audience to anticipate it and to take in the joke. Make Pause your best man, I mean friend.
Open Your Mouth: It sounds obvious, but many people simply don’t open their mouth when speaking and their words are literally being eaten! Bare in mind that nerves will cause tension in the body. One area that is especially affected by tension is the jaw. A tense jaw is a non-opening jaw. Alleviate this tension by spending a little time before yawning and massaging the hinges of the jaw.
Unite your words and your audience: You are sharing your thoughts, stories and feelings. By creating a connection with them, both you and your audience will benefit and you will both feel it. Do this physically by looking up and engaging your listeners. Ideally use eye contact as you look around the room, but if this is too much, just scan the room, but do look up. Mentally, move out of your own head and away from your nerves by thinking “I have some great stories to share and I want you to enjoy them.” This takes the emphasis off you and onto the stories you have to share.
Spice It Up: Variety is the spice of life and a voice without variety is a boring voice. A simple way to add change to your voice is by changing the pitch (the height and depth) of your voice. Start off by raising your pitch for every new paragraph, or point that you make. This keeps your audience interested.
Enjoy Your Speech: Remember that you are surrounded by a supportive audience. As you stand up to speak, take a good, big exhalation (a sigh) and smile. Stay in the moment and consider the overall sentiment of your words and speech and it will be over in a flash. Maybe you’ll be relieved, maybe you’ll want to do it all over again, but either way you’ll have given it your best effort.