“Just throw in a few jokes…”
Just some of the more common pieces of ‘speech advice’ handed out to Best Men.
There’s just one problem: advice like this is useless.
“Be confident!” How?! Especially if I’m feeling nervous!
“Be yourself!” As if I can be anyone else?
“Just throw in a few jokes…” From where? The internet? What if they’ve heard them before? What if they fall flat?
So often, well-meaning advice for Best Men focuses on the outcome without offering helpful suggestions for precisely HOW to achieve it.
‘Be confident’ is not exactly helpful advice, is it?
Practical tips on how to project confidence, even if you don’t feel confident… well, that’s sounds more useful.
Nervousness – and how to handle it – is one of the most common concerns for Best Men I’ve met over the years.
So here are my three top tips for how to handle it – and project confidence…
1 – Call it adrenaline not nerves
Ever felt the heart pound? The stomach churn? The palms sweat? You may call these signs of nerves. But they’re not. They’re symptoms of adrenaline. How you interpret that adrenaline… is a different matter entirely.
I’m not saying you should try to pretend those feelings aren’t there. I am saying you should label them as what they are: perfectly natural, human responses to the challenge of something high-octane. Namely, giving a speech at a close friend’s wedding!
Accept those symptoms – give yourself permission to feel however you feel. You’re allowed to feel the heart pound, ok? But label it as adrenaline. This won’t eliminate the symptoms but it’s a step in the right direction, because…
2 – Remember your audience doesn’t care how nervous you feel
That’s right. At the risk of stating the bl**ding obvious, they don’t. Put yourself in the position of an audience member. Why would you care if a speaker feels nervous? Unless he or she allows those nerves to get in the way of giving a good speech?
Your audience wants you to do well. They want you to relax and enjoy the experience. They want you to be entertaining. So, your job is not to worry about feeling nervous – it’s to focus on delighting the audience, by shedding light on the past experience of the Groom of the Hour.
3 – Identify your Neutral Stance
More than any other practical tip I can offer you, this one is the key to projecting confidence, no matter how you feel.
Neutral Stance is like neutral gear in a car – it’s ‘what you do when you’re not doing anything.’ Most speakers have no idea and so with the adrenaline comes fidgeting, arms crossed, head down, shifting from one foot to another.
Neutral Stances strip out that junk and are about standing talk, deciding what to do with your hands and guaranteeing composure, even if your heart is pounding. Simply balancing your weight on your feet and folding your palms neatly in front of you, just above your waist, not below! This is a good start.
For more detail on the Neutral Stance – including a visual with some examples! – check out my book ‘The Best Man Speaker’, available via this site.
By labelling ‘nervousness’ as what it really is: adrenaline… by focusing on what the audience is really most interested in… by adopting your neutral stance as a way of managing your body language. These are all tips that will enable you to project greater composure and confidence to an audience than you may feel.
Oh and by the way, if you take a few slow deep breaths before you stand up to speak, this will also help!
Good luck, speak soon…