Are you getting a touch of nervousness, better known as speech anxiety, at the mere thought of giving your upcoming wedding speech?
You're in good company. You've probably heard the statistics from the Book of Lists in which Public Speaking is mentioned as the biggest fear among adults. You've seen comics joke about sources reporting that adults fear public speaking more than death.
While I can't say that I know anybody who would rather die than give a speech, I can tell you that speech anxiety is not an urban legend.
I have helped hundreds of people who have had this fear--an average of 22 out of 24 students enter my classes and workshops with speech anxiety (yes, I did have a student or two who actually liked public speaking).
I have good news to tell you. There are lots of tips that I learned when I had suffered from speech anxiety (I told you that you're in good company). Soon, I'll show these tricks of the trade to you.
Before going any further, remember that nervousness is not bad, it's only energy. Most of us gave energy the "nervous" label when we were young. Since then, we have tried to fight it every time we need to give a speech.
But, when you don't battle this energy, it can actually help you speak at your best.
You've probably seen articles about average parents who see their kids trapped under cars. At that moment these same parents are able this energy that we've talked about to lift these cars to free their kids.
Think about this for a moment, if this energy can help people lift cars, imagine how it can help you with your wedding speech!
How do you get this energy to help you?
The ways to control speech anxiety fall into two categories. These are Mental Techniques (which help ease such problems as bad thoughts and nightmares while making your mind feel more at ease)and Physical Techniques (which help reduce the shaking knees, sweaty palms, and other physical problems that come with nervousness).
Try these tips to get relief from feeling scared, negative, overwhelmed, mental discomfort before your speech.
1. Mental Somersaults
This is another way of saying positive self talk. Between now and the day that you give your speech, try to avoid thinking and saying "my speech will be horrible", "people will hate my speech", or anything like this.
Instead, stir up the positive side by making a somersault in your thinking (which is why this is called a mental somersault) and think or talk about such positive points as how your friend or loved one thinks so highly of you, or how happy you are for the bride and groom.
We're human...those negative thoughts will creep in from time to time. But, when you feel the urge to say those negative comments or having those negative thoughts, stop yourself immediately, make a mental somersault, and focus on the good points.
This alone will help reduce your speech anxiety and make you feel much more comfortable about giving your speech.
2. Practice! Practice! Practice!
There is another page that is devoted to showing techniques to quickly and easily practice your speech.
For now, know this: A surefire way to control speech anxiety is to practice your speech at least five (5) times--preferably at least once a day for the five days leading up to your speech.
Practicing your speech will help you feel much more familiar with your material. If you are more familiar with you speech, you WILL feel much more comfortable and confident while delivering your speech.
NOTE: I did not say memorize your speech word for word. Memorizing your speech can be difficult. It will be even harder if you forget some of the words while delivering your speech. You'll be much better off if you just practice your speech for the sake of becoming more familiar with your talk.
3. Speak About What You Know and Like
Try to add some of your favorite ideas into your speech (how you met, a funny, but non-offensive high school or college story, etc.).
This will add something familiar and enjoyable for you to say during your speech. You will be more confident because now you are sharing your knowledge of the bride and groom with the guests. You'll also enjoy discussing those stories.
I attended a wedding where the Maid of Honor is the Bride's sister. To help control her nervousness during her speech, she shared two childhood memories that happened during a family vacation.
She enjoyed telling the stories so much that she forgot all about her nervousness.
4. Visualize Yourself Giving a Wonderful Speech
In other words, picture yourself delivering a terrific speech.
This trick can be as fast as 30 seconds at a time--longer if you like. You can do this with your eyes open or closed.
Briefly picture yourself giving the speech to your liking and then imagine the audience enjoying your speech. Try this several times during the week leading up to your wedding speech.
It has been proven that people who view themselves delivering outstanding speeches before the event are much more likely to accomplish that in real life.
Why? Because our brains don't know much difference between what we imagine and the actual occasion. Planting that positive seed in advance makes it more likely to happen in real life.
Plus, visualization helps reduce those negative public speaking images that we have carried for a number of years.
5. Arrive Early
Although, you'll be busy with photos, greeting people, and other duties, you will be able to reduce your speech anxiety if you could inspect the speaking area before the reception starts.
You'll have time to set up the speaking area, meet some guests as they enter the room, and relax. It's much nicer than pushing through the crowd and rushing to take care of last minute logistics.
Let's look over some techniques to help control sweaty palms, shaking knees, butterflies in our stomach, and other physical discomfort that comes with speech anxiety.
1. Deep Breathing
If you get a heavy amount of sweaty palms, shaking knees, etc. the reason is that the energy (that we call nervousness) piles up in certain places around your body.
Deep Breathing pushes this energy throughout your body and makes you feel more comfortable.
How do you do it?
Slowly inhale for 4 seconds...hold your breath for about 4 seconds...and slowly exhale for a few seconds...repeat this process 5 or 6 times.
The technique works a little better if you inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, but this technique will help control your speech anxiety no matter how you choose to inhale and exhale.
2. Light Muscle Squeeze
The Light Muscle Squeeze does the same for your energy as Deep Breathing. Some people like this technique better...some like Deep Breathing better. So, try both and use the technique that works better for you.
I learned this trick when competing in a Toastmasters Speech Contest. Although it felt silly at first, this tip has made me feel less nervous about giving speeches to this day.
How do you do it?
Start by lightly squeezing your toe muscles--don't pull too hard because we don't want you to hurt yourself...continue squeezing your muscles from the bottom to the top of your body...hold your muscles for about 3 seconds...stop squeezing...repeat this process 5 or 6 times.
The Deep Breathing and Light Muscle Squeeze are especially helpful for fight speech anxiety immediately before your talk. Both can be done quietly if you're getting nervous while sitting in your seat while awaiting your turn to speak.
When you're feeling anxious, exercise is a wonderful way to burn off this energy. Play your favorite sport after practicing your speech. On the day of your speech, taking a brief walk will make you feel more comfortable.
4. Use Gestures and Walk
Most of everything that you've seen up to now will help you before your speech.
But, what happens when you get nervous while you're speaking to the audience?
Limited gestures (hand movements) and walking during your speech helps you use and control your nervous energy while speaking to the guests.
A word to the wise: If you use gestures or walk too much, it will distract the audience. In fact, too much walking from side to side could make everybody seasick!
5. Make Eye Contact with the Audience
In North America (check out the local customs if speaking elsewhere), the audience expects you to look at them. Otherwise, your lack of eye contact can be perceived as being rude.
Look at the audience. Not the ceiling, floor, your notes, or out the window. It might feel awkward to make eye contact at first, but you will feel more comfortable as you continue with your speech.
By the way, picturing audience members in their underwear doesn't really help you deliver a better speech. It's just an urban legend.
Where should you go from here?
Now that you are armed with several tricks of the trade to control your speech anxiety, it's time for the next step.
Move onto the Speech Outline page to see a simple formula for a speech that the audience will follow, understand, and enjoy.
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Perfect Wedding Speech