A close friend calls you up. ‘Hi. Look, I know it’s not really your thing, but would you mind doing ten minutes of stand-up comedy in front of a room full friends and strangers? It’d mean a lot to me.’ You want to put the phone down but you can’t. They’ve just asked you to be their best man and give a brilliant speech at their wedding.
It’s no wonder that as a public speaking coach, so many of my clients come to me with terror in their eyes. But they don’t need to be so scared and neither do you. We’re going to get through this …
Start with ideas
Blank piece of paper? Totally normal.
Let’s start with a few questions:
- How did you meet?
- What’s your fondest memory of the groom?
- What is something about him that most people in the room won’t know?
If you spend a few minutes thinking about these and jotting down your responses, you’ll have at least some material to work with.
Make it funny
Alright, you’ve got something amusing. A story, an anecdote, a memory – something. But you’re not sure if it’s any good.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are there any twists in this anecdote?
- Does anything out of the ordinary happen?
- Does it show the groom acting in a way the audience wouldn’t expect him to?
If the answer to any one of these is yes, you may be on to a winner.
Once you’ve got a story, try it out. On a partner, a friend or a coach. Tell them the story like you would at the wedding. Notice where they smile or laugh. Those are the really funny bits.
As soon as you’ve got to grips with the parts of this story that are getting laughs, focus on them. Exaggerate and elaborate.
Find the punchlines
Ask yourself where in the story something unusual or outrageous happens. This is usually where you’ll find your punchlines.
Delivering punchlines is more tricky. Mastering the art of timing takes practice but a good tip is to pause, just for a beat, just before you reach the ‘funny’. This cues the audience up to laugh when you deliver that killer line.
Structure the speech
You can structure your speech in a really simple way:
- Introduction – who am am, how we met etc.
- Funny anecdote 1
- Funny anecdote 2 (that comes later in the groom’s life)
- Amusing story about the bride and groom meeting/dating
- Touching/heartwarming anecdote
- Close with a toast
This template is great if you’re already struggling with the speech and want to just focus on the content.
However, if you want to make the speech that bit more memorable, you might need to go down a more unconventional route. I often spend time with clients drawing out the qualities or hobbies of the groom and structuring the speech around these.
Spend time writing your speech and rehearsing it. Don’t be afraid to ask others for input. You’re going to be delivering your speech to a happy (and often slightly drunk) audience who are on your side. Take a deep breath. You’ve got this.
Photo credit: Dave & Margie Hill / Kleerup