If you’re due to do a wedding speech, chances are you’ll at some point feel the dreaded nerves descend on you (if you haven’t already). It’s a horrible feeling: that fear of making a fool of yourself, not knowing what to say, no-one laughing at your jokes…
For some people the nerves get so bad that they either ruin their day completely or they just point blank refuse to do a speech.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, nerves are horrible things, but they can be mastered and controlled so they don’t ruin your day. Here are some ways that you can stop your nerves from taking over.
You are not alone
In surveys, time and again fear of public speaking comes top of lists of popular phobias: ahead of heights, snakes and even fear of dying. So you really are not alone in being even a little bit nervous.
Everyone in your position feels exactly the same way, no matter how confident they seem on the surface. So it will come as no surprise to anyone if you admit to having some fears at standing up and speaking: it’d be more surprising if you weren’t at all nervous!
There’s a saying that a problem shared is a problem halved. Speak to others, admit your fears. You’ll find a couple of things happening: you’ll feel better for talking about it, and (if you speak to the right people) they may come up with ideas to help you feel better.
Everyone will be on your side
It’s a bit ironic that one of the main reasons people fear public speaking is they imagine their audience ganging up on them, while in fact the opposite is true. Nine times out of ten, audience members will wish the speaker in front of them to do well. Think back to whenever you’ve watched someone speak: I’m willing to bet that your instinct was to support rather than jeer them, at least at first.
Why is this? Partly it’s due to the fact that we are social animals who don’t like to appear out of step with the rest of the herd: if everyone else is listening intently then we will too. Also, most of us are empathetic people: we feel sympathy for the poor person standing up there, imagining what it must feel like, willing them to succeed in case it’s us that finds ourselves in that position in future.
So don’t demonise your audience: they’re human too, and will be wanting you to succeed.
Keep it in perspective
It is important that you do your best, that you try your hardest to do the best speech you can.
However, you also need to remember that there are many more important things happening on the day. Things which, if they do go wrong, really could ruin the whole day: like the bride or groom turning up on time, the ceremony, the bride’s dress, the catering, the booze, the entertainment…
Remember these other things and keep it all in perspective: your speech shouldn’t seem quite so bad or scary in this light.
Remember to breathe
A good tip to beat a sudden onset of nerves is to take a nice, deep breath in, hold it for a second and then slowly let it out. This will get oxygen to your brain, helping you to think calmly, stop you hyperventilating and (if you focus on doing this) give you something else to think about rather than your nerves.
Many of us seem to be hard wired to always expect the worst, especially with big, scary things we don’t usually do: like making a wedding speech.
Don’t give in to this. Rather than thinking about all the things that could go wrong, focus on what could go right. Like doing a great job, earning the undying gratitude of your daughter / new wife / best mate.
This is easier said than done, and needs a real effort, but do try to fight those bad thoughts. Recognise them for what they are: fears, not reality.
You will be prepared
This is something I can’t promise you, but something that you really can control.
You could take the approach I took with my ever-growing overdraft when I was a student: stop thinking about the speech in the hope that it’ll all come good in the end, as if by magic. Trust me: this doesn’t work. Sorry to break it to you, but there’s no wedding speech elf, no magical creature that will do all the work for you.
Use your nerves as a prompt to do something positive. Prepare and practise. Do this to extremes. Wedding speeches are like most things: the more you put in, the more you get out. The more prepared you are, the better you’ll do and the less reasons you’ll have to worry.
Of course, it’s easy for me to write all this: you’re the one who has to actually do it. So I’ll leave you with one last thought. I’ve been there, I’ve felt the crippling fear, been so stressed I couldn’t sleep. But I followed the above advice, did my speeches, sat down, soaked up the applause, then wondered what I’d been worried about in the first place. Importantly, I survived. You can too.