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How to deliver your best man speech?

The question about delivery is something I’m asked all the time. The idea goes that having a great speech is half the battle, but delivering it is the other half, and as often as I’m asked, I can’t be there to deliver it for you on the day. Well, it’s something I don’t actually agree with. What I’m looking for in an authentic best man speech, is just a regular guy standing up and delivering it in a deadpan, unsophisticated and honest way. I’m not looking for a polished, seamless experience, because this is a speech from a friend or a brother, and not an ITV Saturday night game show. The most dangerous type of best man is one that thinks he’s turned into Jimmy Carr for the night, believes his own hype, and then starts bouncing off the guests like it’s the Comedy Club, which it’s not. It’s really not.

So, whilst delivering it in a clear, straightforward way is important, you don’t have to worry about being the next big thing in public speaking. However, you do have to get the words out, so what’s the best way to achieve that? Cue cards or prompt. cards, are a really popular method, in fact most best men seem to go for this, and I can’t help but feeling they’ve all got it wrong. Cue cards are fiddly, there’s far too much information crammed on to them in far too small a font, and fumbling about with shaky hands, it’s an accident waiting to happen. What tends to happen with cue cards is that information, whole paragraphs and key words tend to get lost, and without them some stories/jokes can flat horribly flat.

The next method is attempting to deliver it from memory – the Holy Grail of all best men, and one that very few achieve. If remembering 1300 words verbatim is within your skillset, then go for it, but this will apply to only a very few people, and fewer still leave themselves with enough time to put it into practice. What can happen is that a best man tries to convince himself he has the time and patience to learn the whole speech and what then ensues is several weeks of sleepless nights and a complete emotional breakdown. Trying to learn a whole speech parrot fashion is something you build up inot. I used to present TV shows and in the end could learn and recite about 2000 words without any bother, but it took years to learn and perfect that skill.

In between all this we have people reading from iPhones, tablets, using teleprompter apps on their laptops, and Powerpoint – God Forbid. However, in amongst all of this is the most obvious, and much maligned method of printing the speech out, and reading form that. This can easily be the most effective method, especially for the majority of best men who have less than 2 weeks to get things sorted. However, you need to put some effort and thought into it. Firstly print the speech out in a much larger font than usual, if all goes according to plan you’re simply going to be using this as a giant prompt. Secondly, read the speech at every given opportunity, do not try to learn it, or you will go insane. Just keep reading it until it has cemented itself in your brain. Thirdly, back the sheets on to a folder or clipboard – your hands are going to be shaky and you won’t want the sheets wafting around like crazy.

On the day you should know the speech inside out, and the sheets will be more of a propr than anything. If you do get lost or confused, it’s all there in super big print, so you can easily find where you are, and get going again. Eye contact is crucial, nobody ever landed a great speech by burying their head into a pile of papers, so remember to look up as much as possible, and only dip into the sheets for a prompt to the next sentence or paragraph. Lastly, take it slowly, reading it like a horse racing commentator will only end in disaster – you’ve got some funny lines in there and you want to people to hear them and understand them.

Written By
Adrian Simpson
16 Mar, 2021

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