CHEERS: How to give the perfect speech at a party
Speeches. Love them or hate them, they’re an important part of any event. From weddings and funerals to corporate parties and family gatherings, what you say adds meaning and weight to the occasion. And while you want your words to be memorable, you want them to be memorable for the right reasons. So how do you deliver the perfect speech? Well, we have some words of wisdom for you.
Have a point
First of all, have a clear and relevant message, and then support it throughout your speech. We’ve all sat through those toasts that seemed to go on forever and ever, never knowing where they’re going or when they’ll stop. We’ve also all had our attention grabbed from someone who knew how to tell stories, and draw us in with their words, and hearts.
Know your audience
Want to keep guests laughing? That’s great, but according to Shannon Valente of Shannon Valente Weddings, you want to avoid inside or inappropriate jokes, and keep them clean, fun and based on something everyone will understand. Another important thing is to know your audience, and know them well. If it’s a corporate event and your audience is employees, you may not want to bore them with financial information or news that typically interests senior management. Ask yourself why they’re there, why they care and what they’re interested in. Maybe a speech about culture would serve this audience better.
Keep it real
Write your speech from the heart – your heart. If you try to sound smarter, or wiser than you actually are, people will pick up on that and consider your words disingenuous. Think of your speech as if you’re talking to a friend and keep it human and conversational. Nobody is looking for perfection, they’re looking for real.
Eyes off the page
As hard as it can be, try not to read off the page. It’s a lot easier for people to connect with what you’re saying when you’re looking them, or at the very least glancing at them. You don’t want to memorize your speech and sound like a robot, but it’s also nice to have natural, spontaneous moments that keep people on their toes.
Don’t resort to ‘filler’
A lot of people think a speech needs to be x minutes long or fill a certain time segment. Try not to measure the meaning in time increments, when in all honesty, you could deliver something more powerful in a shorter amount of time. (But don’t race through it either – there’s no prize for speed reading.)
For J’Val Shuster, the owner of Devour, timing is everything. “Hold back a food station opening until after the toasts so you have a captive audience that isn’t chowing down!” She also encourages hosts to ensure speeches coordinate with the flow of the evening and are timed well with any food service. "At weddings we often suggest interspersing each course with a toast instead of having them done all at once after dinner." This gives guests a bit of a break from eating – and allows service staff to clear plates and bring out the next course.
Look for opportunities to add meaning
Typically events are held to celebrate someone or something. If you’re lucky enough to share the podium at such an event, don’t let the opportunity go to waste. You have the chance to add something and make people feel something. Share a unique perspective, tell them something new, make them smile, make them cry, make them laugh, just whatever you do, don’t make them excited for the whole thing to be over.
Looking for inspiration? Check out popular Ted talks, watch a politician or google some of your favourite stand up comics. They understand a thing or two about timing, delivery and how to work a crowd. “Just don't use someone else’s speech,” says Valente. “Yes, the Internet has a wealth of wonderful information, and some of it can be used to create a wonderful speech, but make sure you personalize, personalize, personalize.”
The biggest thing to remember is to simply have fun. If you’re not happy to be speaking, people pick up on that and naturally feel uncomfortable. And say thank you. “It’s great to warmly welcome everyone and thank guests for coming whether it is a private event or a corporate event. If the words are genuine, meaningful, and heartfelt – it will resonate well with guests,” says Shuster. So, put a smile on your face, take a deep breath and remember that at the end of the speech, you’ll get a round of applause, and hopefully a drink.