Some of the speakers at the wedding were so intimidated by their upcoming speeches that they couldn't begin to enjoy themselves until they were finished. It's a real shame because we build things up in our minds that are worse than reality.
The truth is that even seasoned public speakers get nervous - politicians, businessmen, and celebrities alike. They don't wake up one morning and say, "I was born to be a great public speaker or I wouldn't be able to do my job!" The most successful public speakers learn to harness their nerves and use them to their advantage.
Preparation for public speaking involves more than just practicing what you say. You can also make sure you are physically and mentally ready to speak. When you stand up, your body will be in "fight or flight" mode - meaning your heart will be beating fast, you may start sweating, adrenaline will be pumping around your body, and your voice may tremble. You may also notice that your knees are knocking, your hands are shaking, and you have "butterflies" in your stomach. That adrenaline is a good thing! If you're too relaxed, it's hard to give a passionate speech. Adrenaline is an asset to public speaking, but the trick is to learn how to use it instead of being afraid of it.
Remember, the grandest part of the wedding is the exchange of vows during the ceremony, and the reception and speeches are the celebrations of the wedding. So you don't have to be too formal. When you first stand up, it's important to scan the room to establish eye contact with people. This will immediately engage your audience.
Take a few deep breaths before you begin. This will allow people to settle into the room and ensure their attention is on you. If in doubt, think one, one thousand, two, two thousand, three, three thousand, and smile. Everyone in the room is interested in hearing what you have to say. So if you smile, they are sure to smile back, which will immediately make you feel more at ease. If you feel more confident later in your presentation, you can even point to the people in the room (although don't single them out in an embarrassing way!)
You may want to recite your speech, but keep the prompts in case you forget what to say next. If you use prompts, it is recommended that you use some small cards rather than one or two full-size sheets of paper. This is for two reasons: you are less likely to start reading verbatim (much less entertaining since your voice loses some of its natural rhythms), and if you are very nervous, someone near you will be able to see the paper vibrate!
This brings us to the next point, how to handle your hands. Gentlemen remember your student days: it is not polite to stick your hands in your pockets. If you're holding your notes, don't shuffle or fidget. You probably won't have the podium, but if you do put your arm on it without letting your knuckles turn white. If you're not using a prompter during your presentation, loosely close your hands in front of you, but not so tightly that it looks like you're wriggling them in desperation. If you have a microphone, make sure you keep it away from your mouth. You shouldn't have to take a bite out of it. The trick is to imagine your voice flowing through the microphone while capturing the essence of your voice. Volume is not a substitute for personality - you should still speak with your usual personality. If the microphone starts screaming, you can say, "If I want feedback, I'll ask for it." If you're not using a microphone, try focusing on someone in the back three-quarters of the room and imagine you're just talking to them. This will ensure that you speak at an audible volume without shouting.
When people are stressed, they tend to use less lung capacity to breathe. This means less oxygen gets into their bloodstream, and because they are not exhaling properly, it creates a buildup of carbon monoxide, which makes the voice sound stressed and unnatural. In extreme cases, this can lead to a panic attack. So how do you make sure you're breathing properly? Practice. Try this exercise - if you haven't done breathing exercises before, it may feel a little strange at first.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your shoulders, neck, and arms relaxed. Make sure your knees are not locked. Place your hands on your stomach and inhale slowly through your nose to the count of four. You should focus on letting your stomach expand, not your chest. This is the difference between deep breathing and shallow breathing. After you inhale for a count of four, exhale for a count of four. Do this several times. With practice, you will find that you can increase the number of inhalations and exhalations to seven, and maybe even to ten. As you practice deep breathing, you will feel yourself relaxing.
Repeating this type of exercise several times will not only help you with voice projection but will also ensure that you are less nervous during your presentation. Being more relaxed may also prevent you from wanting to fill in the pauses between sentences. Most people don't realize that their tiny silences when they "stand up" are more deafening than the ums, ahs, coughs, and other tics that people tend to make when speaking in public. Again, you can eliminate this if you practice your speech out loud beforehand: to friends, relatives, mirrors, and even webcams.
It's very rude to question someone while they're giving a wedding speech, but there's no need to cower in fear in case it happens to you. You can prepare for this by making sure you have several one-liners to fire back at the person who interrupts you. If it's a man, you can always look at your watch in confusion and say, "I know it's an awkward tradition to get drunk at a wedding, but this must be a record." If it's a woman questioning you, you can say, "It's okay, honey, your time is up - you might even catch the bouquet."
Imagine how you want the presentation to go instead of putting yourself in the "I'll survive as long as I can ......" mindset. If you seem relaxed and enjoying yourself, you will begin to do so - and so will your audience.
Remember, it's normal to feel anxious! One technique is to look at the people in front of you, notice the clothes they are wearing, the hats, and focus on any bright colors. Once you've scanned the room, taken a few deep breaths, and started talking, you'll be surprised at how well the rest of it flows.
As you prepare and practice your presentation, imagine the positive reception you will receive from everyone afterward. Remind yourself that you are giving a speech on a very special day and that you will do well with it. So practice and adrenaline are your friends when it comes to giving memorable wedding speeches. If you are ready, you will enjoy the speech as much as the person listening to it. Most importantly, make sure you have fun.