How to Practice your Wedding Speech

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    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 practising 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 speech.

    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.

    Here are eight effective ways to practice your wedding speech:

    Stand up and move around

    You’ll look, sound and feel more energised 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, practising 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 speech.

    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 of how speaking makes you feel—whether you tense up, speak too fast or soft, or have some other issue.

    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.

    If this worries you, we have a blog that might help you in deciding whether to read from paper or choose another delivery method.

    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.

    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.

    Listen to an audio recording

    If you want to memorise 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 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 familiarise yourself with the words you want to say.

    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 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.

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