Being named best man is one of the greatest honors a friend can bestow, but it comes with a great deal of responsibility. Not only is it your job to plan the bachelor party and to hold the rings during the ceremony, but you also have to make a speech at the reception. If you’re a nervous public speaker, the fear of standing in front of a crowd might be enough to make you consider passing on the role entirely.
Few people can say they love public speaking, but you don’t have to like it to be good at it. With some preparation and a few handy tips, you can make it through the speech with no tears but the ones you evoke from the audience with your heartfelt sincerity.
Tip #1: Plan Ahead
Any good story has a beginning, middle, and end – so should your speech! Before you try to write out your speech, spend a few minutes thinking about your friend and the fond memories you share. Jot down a few ideas then start expanding on them to create a fully formed speech. It will be like connecting the dots to find out where the different pieces of the puzzle fit best.
Once you have the details in place, practice! Do a couple of run-throughs in front of the mirror to get a feel for the flow and tweak the language as needed so it sounds natural. Once you’re a little more comfortable, try it in front of a friend who will give you honest feedback. You may think you’re being funny only to realize that you sound snarky or, worse, judgmental.
Finally, don’t wait until the last minute to write your speech! Don’t let your nerves overwhelm you into procrastinating until the night before. You want to make sure you have time to practice, so it feels natural when you deliver it in front of the crowd.
Tip #2: Don’t Drink Too Much
Nothing says “wedding” like an open bar but if you’re the best man, you may want to wait until after you make your speech to start hitting the champagne. A cocktail to calm your nerves won’t do any harm but be careful not to overdo it. No one likes a sloppy speech and slurring your words is a surefire way to distract the audience from the heartfelt message you’re trying to send.
If you have severe performance anxiety, the worst thing you can do is try to numb the fear with alcohol or to ignore it entirely. You’ll do much better if you feel prepared and if you remind yourself of the entire reason you’re doing it in the first place – your best friend.
Tip #3: Share a Heartwarming Story
Most people attending the wedding will know the bride and groom, but they may not know the bridal party. It’s your job as the best man to bridge the gap so your speech shows the happy couple just how much you wish them well while appealing to the rest of the audience as well.
Pick out a few details of your relationship with your friend to help the audience understand you and your friendship. If you can tell a quick story, even better! Just be careful not to get too personal because there’s family in the audience. And definitely avoid stories that involve exes.
Tip #4: Add Comedic Relief
Great public speakers often recommend beginning with a joke to get the audience laughing. This simple tip to improve your public speaking is particularly great advice when making your best man speech. After telling a heartwarming tale of your friendship with the groom and how he came to love the bride, the audience will be ready for a little comedic relief to lighten the mood.
The best way to end a best man speech is to make the bride and groom feel happy and to make everyone eager to celebrate them as they start a new chapter of their lives. Draw things to a close with a joke or a funny anecdote, but don’t forget to end with call for a toast in celebration to the happy couple.
A Final Note
Stage fright is not a joke, but it shouldn’t stand in the way of you standing up for your friend on the most important day of his life. If the thought of delivering a speech in front of an audience makes you want to die, just remember you’re doing it for your friend, not for yourself. For severe performance anxiety, you might talk to your doctor about a beta-blocker like propranolol.
Whether your speech goes off without a hitch or you crash and burn, you’ll have a memory with your friend you’ll never forget. Take these tips to heart and use them to write a best man speech both you and your friend will remember forever. Best of luck!