How to Manage Emotions in Delivering a Speech…

One of my clients was preparing to deliver a Groom’s Wedding Speech at a large family wedding. They wanted to deliver a memorable and great speech and impress everyone there, most importantly their family. They were concerned that they would break down in tears during the speech, so they asked Great Speech, “How do I manage my emotions in a speech?”

When you have a personal connection to your subject, showing emotion is a powerful way to connect with your audience as an authentic, genuine person. We connect with people through shared feelings and emotions, whether we are in a family setting, corporate boardroom or a non-profit fundraiser.

However, there’s a difference between showing emotion and being overwhelmed by emotion.

Showing emotion can include:

  • Smiling as you talk about an accomplishment you are proud of
  • Softening your voice as you reflect on a personal loss
  • Speaking with passion about an issue you care about

Being overwhelmed by emotion is when you get flustered to the point where you lose the main message of your speech.

So how you do you show emotion without being overwhelmed by it?

In advance of your speech, ask three questions:

  1. Who is your audience
  2. What is your goal
  3. Why you(why do you care about your subject)?

The third question, Why you? helps you connect with an authentic emotion around your subject.

In addition, ask a few other questions, such as, What level of emotion is appropriate for this audience? Where can you push the boundaries without pushing them too far? Let the answers to those questions guide your choice of stories or anecdotes.

If you are concerned about being overwhelmed by emotion in your speech, practice it with someone else in advance. Do you consistently break down at a certain story? If so, you may not be ready to share that particular story. Find a different anecdote that makes the same point but draws less emotion.

Despite our best efforts, there will still be times when we are overcome with emotion in a speech. In those cases, here are some ways to get back on track:

  • Pause and breathe
  • Have water with you and take a sip when you need a moment to collect your thoughts
  • Have notes ready so you can find your place
  • Take another deep breath and keep going
  • Consider adding the emotional story to the end of your speech, so that you end with meaning and can leave the stage without feeling like you cut the speech short

Tapping into emotion is a powerful and authentic way to connect with your audience. You can feel comfortable showing emotion in your speech and you now have some tips to keep your cool when you are overwhelmed by emotion.


When should we deliver the speech at a wedding…?

December 2019

Tim Willoughby writes about wedding speeches:

Love them or hate them, speeches are a key part of a wedding reception. Those speeches give guests an insight into who the bride and groom are, as well as their relationship, and are a chance for the hosts and the happy couple to speak to and thank their guests for attending. So what’s the best way to arrange these speeches—or just get them over with? Our experts weigh in.

Great wedding speeches are all about timing, both how long the speeches are and when they take place. You don’t want to disrupt the flow of the evening, but you also don’t want to wait so long that the speakers have either had too much to drink or have spent the whole night waiting to get the party started.

Here are a few options:

  1. Have Speeches Happen Right Away
    Getting these formalities out of the way is great for two reasons: Your parents, bridal party and best man can enjoy the rest of the evening stress-free and they can serve to set the tone for the night, too. If you want to kick the night off with speeches, schedule them to happen as soon as everyone has sat down or after the starter. Make your grand entrance, take your seats, then ask the first person (usually the hosts of the event i.e. Bestman) to take the microphone. You can have the speeches all happen back to back or take a little break between speeches so your hotel staff can serve the first course, picking up the microphone again after the salad plates are down. Some weddings have delivered the speeches in the hotel lobby before they actually enter the food hall.
  2. Wait Until Starters Are Served
    Another great option (that still has those speeches happening early in the evening) is to hold off until guests are served their main course. This part of the meal is the longest, so it allows for a little more time for talking without interruptions from the hotel staff. Make sure your hotel staff serves your VIP tables first, so anyone giving a toast can enjoy their meal while it’s hot. Then, as other tables are being served, they can get up and make their speech with a captive audience.
  3. Kick Off the Dancing With Speeches
    The third option is to have speeches at the tail end of the meal when your speechmakers will still have plenty of time to enjoy the reception when they’re done. You can either have them get up to speak at the end of the meal or invite them to take the stage when it’s time to dance. Schedule the speeches, then head straight into the cake cutting. Finish off with your first dance and parent dances, then open up the dance floor!



How to practice your speech…

(December 2019)

In the article below, Denise Graveline, a Communications Consultant shares her thoughts on how to practice a speech.

As a speaker coach and presentation trainer, I’ve heard every dodge in the book about whether you practiced your talk, speech or presentation.

There are advantages and disadvantages for speakers who practice.  Most speakers just flip through their slides or notes, read silently to themselves, decide to rely on the text or slides, and don’t bother practicing out loud. Or people will “practice” while sitting at their desks, even when they’re going to be standing up and moving around during the presentation.

It’s almost worse if you’ve given the presentation before. “I’ve got this,” you say. “I’ll just go out there and kill it.” There’s a special hell waiting for experienced speakers who get on stage and find out that a little practice would have smoothed the rough edges of their talks.

Part of the problem is that many people don’t know how to practice a speech, or are afraid of what they’ll find if they do. But as I say in my training workshops, wouldn’t you rather mess up in practice than in front of your audience?

Here are eight effective ways to practice your presentation:

  1. Stand up and move around

You’ll look, sound and feel more energized if you stand while you practice. That’s why I encourage speakers to stand, even if they’re speaking as part of a panel, or on the telephone for a conference call or media interview.

Sitting drains energy, crowds your diaphragm and makes your voice less lively. Plus, practicing the physical movements for your talk helps you develop a kinetic memory of the movements you’ll make, which will help you pull off a smooth presentation.

  1. Speak out loud

There’s no other way to find out whether you stumble over a particular phrase or can’t pronounce something easily, in which case you can do a rewrite or workaround. You’ll also get a sense for how speaking makes you feel—whether you tense up, speak too fast or soft, or have some other issue.

  1. Practice without the text

If your goal is to speak without a text, start weaning yourself from your notes during practice sessions. Come up with an outline made up of just keywords, and choose keywords that are vivid and specific.

Put those keywords in a shortlist on a whiteboard or flipchart on the other side of the room where you can glance at them as cues. Then practice out loud without the cue cards.

  1. Practice in the actual setting

Many of us practice in conference rooms, offices, and hotel rooms. But if those aren’t like the space in which you’ll be speaking, find something closer to the actual setting for at least one practice.

Will you be using a lectern? Find a lectern to practice with. Will you be in an auditorium? Practice in one.

Even if you can’t practice there, make sure you scope out the actual space ahead of time—find photos on the Web or visit in person an hour before—so you know what to expect.

  1. Record yourself on video.

Grab a friend or colleague and ask her to record your practice. You can use your telephone’s camera. Upload and review the video, and use a checklist of things to look out for, from gestures and vocal errors to movement and tone. Note two or three things you want to improve and practice again on the video to see your progress.

  1. Listen to an audio recording

If you want to memorize a text, it’s helpful to record yourself reading the text in a lively way. Mark up the text to give yourself cues about pronunciation, emphasis, pauses and up or downturns in your tone.

Load the audio into your telephone, iPod or a CD, and listen to it over and over. One of my clients does this while running on a treadmill. Another client listens in the car on her commute, and yet another listens while she walks on the beach. It’s a great way to practice that will let you focus on the sound of your voice and vocal variety and help familiarize yourself with the words you want to say.

  1. Grab a test audience

Some speakers chose listeners who could offer perspectives on the topic, or who resembled the actual audience so the speakers could gauge responses.

Many speakers, knowing their colleagues wouldn’t be able to see the talk in person, did friends and family preview of the talk-the closest thing to a live run-through-just before departing for the actual talk. It’s a great way to give your colleagues an insider preview while getting some practice.

  1. Work with a Communications Coach

When I do one-on-one coaching with a speaker, much of what we do involves practice, as well as recording and feedback.

I usually do at least one in-person coaching session so I can better see movement, expression and other delivery issues. Then we follow up on Skype, telephone or email, and send practice videos back and forth for review and critique. The speaker also works in between our sessions and focuses on a list of action items we put together ahead of time.

We also do pre-rehearsals in the actual speaking venue.

The goal is to structure the practices so the list of issues gets smaller and smaller as we get closer to the day of the speech. This lets us focus on nuances and grace notes to really make the talk-sing. For many speakers, working with a coach is a great way to stay focused in practice while getting constructive and private feedback.

The Art of Speaking with a Podium / Lectern…

(October 2019)

Podiums / lecterns can help or hamper a speaker. Some people sometimes hide behind them. Some grasp on to the sides for dear life.  Having said all of that, a podium/lectern is a great speaking medium if you are delivering a speech or making a presentation.

Halina Saint James shares 10 tips on using a podium/lectern when having to public speak:

  1. Make sure the podium / lectern’s height is correct for you.
  2. If the podium / lectern is a modern acrylic see-through type, keep what you place on it to a minimum i.e. just your notes.
  3. You don’t have to stand behind the podium. You can stand to the side and have your notes on the podium/lectern. Then you can glance at them as needed. This won’t work, of course, if you are using a microphone that’s part of the podium/lectern.
  4. If you are behind the podium/lectern, stand back a step or two from it. This will keep you from clutching or leaning on it. It will encourage you to use your hands naturally. This will, in turn, enhance your authentic voice.
  5. Make sure the notes, water and props etc. are yours and not something another speaker placed there or is / has been using.
  6. Take a few seconds to get yourself comfortable at the podium/lectern before you speak. Adjust the microphone and place your notes the way you want them. Keep your eyes away from the audience as you do this. When you’re ready to speak, lift your head, look at the audience, smile and begin.
  7. If the podium / lectern has a light and you’re using it, make sure it doesn’t obscure your face.
  8. Don’t be afraid to place your podium / lectern exactly where you want it (depending on its size and weight). It’s usually better placed to the left hand side from the audience’s view point, especially if you’re using PowerPoint slides.
  9. Standing behind a podium / lectern can separate you from the audience, which is fine as the audience do accept this.

What is the distinction between these two mainstays of public speaking i.e. the podium and the lectern.

The podium (pl. podiums or podia) is a raised large heavy platform on which the speaker stands to deliver their speech and indeed place their notes. “Podium” is derived from the Greek word πόδι (pothi) which means “foot”. The word “podiatrist” (foot doctor) comes from the same source.

The lectern is a raised, slanted light stand on which a speaker can place their notes. “Lectern” is derived from the Latin word lectus, the past participle of the verb legere, which means “to read”. The word “lecture” comes from the same source. There are tabletop lecterns and there are standalone lecterns, that come in all sizes.