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PUT EMOTION AT THE HEART OF YOUR PITCH

I am naturally shy,  so even now, several years after publication, it still surprises me that my book, It’s Not What You Say, It’s The Way You Say It!, is all about emotion. It’s about the way you come across, not the comfortable rationale of what you say.

Starting out armed with the experience of over 1000 pitches –many successful,  some not but learning from both – I intended to write mainly for the business reader, quoting case histories together with lessons for success. This format has however been done well by others and I was determined to be if not better, then different.

My talented editor pointed out that the pitching principles in my first outline were the same for all live persuasive communication, principles for the most part formulated by the ancient teachers of rhetoric over two thousand years ago. It made complete sense to broaden  potential readers to all who present or speak, interview or audition, preach or propose. This in turn determined a communication approach in the book that was easy and accessible to all readers, an approach that was itself a demonstration of the way to come across with impact, bringing ideas alive with wit and visual imagination.

While the principles are indeed common, there is also in my view one basic error which lies at the heart of many unsuccessful pitches or interviews. It is an error based on the very human concern to keep on trying to improve the content – the script, the PowerPoint, the argument – right up until the last possible moment.

Much midnight oil is burnt striving to perfect or find a competitive edge. And all of this reasonable, or rational, use of resource, effort and energy restricts, sometimes to zero, time spent on injecting the emotional energy essential to performance.

We forget that people act on emotion, then justify with reason.

We ignore what our experience tells us, as did Dale Carnegie ‘When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.’ Or as Maya Angelou so beautifully said ‘I’ve learnt that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

With words like these inspiring me, it will be no surprise that my central premise, developed through the book, is that emotion is at the heart of any successful pitch.

To bring this central thought alive in a compelling way, some 50 ideas are explored using clever illustration and creative headlines, aiming to stimulate and educate in a memorable way. Through the book, getting to the emotional heart is considered in three ways. What is the emotional response you seek? How do you resist content pressure to give priority and space for emotion? How can you bring the right levels of emotion to your performance?

The importance of getting under the skin of your audience is covered as is the essential skill of listening, really listening, something often overlooked in the excitement of a pitch. Without this, the emotional responses sought will be easily missed but there will in all situations be two responses that are paramount.

They were very well articulated in a perceptive and revealing article some years ago in a marketing journal in the UK. The writer was head of a company, AAR, which specialised in guiding clients through the agency selection process. He had gained unique insight from observing his clients firstly receiving the pitches, over 600 of them, and then discussing their decisions.

Surprise, surprise, his conclusions were that it was not the brilliance of the proposed strategy or creative solution that carried the day.  More often than not the decision came down to their assessment of two simple questions they asked themselves, the first being:

‘Will I like these people?’ (as partners/suppliers/staff ) with an allied ‘Do they (the pitch team) like each other?

Both are loaded emotionally. Of course, most people pitching will pass the likeability test in their normal lives but are they as likeable under the tension of the competitive arena? They may be worrying about their words, their visual aids, often subject to last minute changes (the curse of PowerPoint), the hand-overs.  A team that may be the best of friends can, under pressure, easily give off vibes that signal otherwise. If they do, the decision will go against them. Rehearsal is discussed later but worth noting that in my experience ‘rehearsal makes nice people nicer.’

The second question the decision takers ask themselves is this, “How much do these people really want my business? How hungry are they?

Hunger is not to be mistaken for desperation. Nor is it the same as the polished professional enthusiasm you expect in any pitch. Hunger is not something you proclaim. You ooze it by being hell-bent on doing more, asking more, leaving no proverbial stone un-turned.

Judging the emotional response is as critical in the one-on-one interview as it is on a global stage. Ten years ago London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics. Five cities were competing in the final live pitch to the International Olympic Committee with Paris, in rational terms of delivering a successful event, the clear favourites. London’s hopes rested on persuading the IOC to act on emotion.

They did this through a highly emotional appeal expressed as “London’s vision is to reach young people all around the world, to connect them with the inspirational power of the Games, so that they are inspired to choose sport”.

They knew if they failed to connect, they would fail

Many months after London won the bid, Lord Coe was asked if there was one thing that he felt was at the heart of their success. His reply: “It was all down to the emotional connection.”

A study of this bid, widely discussed as a case history demonstrating the perfect pitch, shows that a relentless attention to detail and massive resource were committed to the essential Technical submission – the ‘rational’ phase. During this however the London team never lost sight of the emotional end game. They built ‘emotional priority’ into their preparation and went into the final live pitch knowing the emotional levers to use. Or, in other words, they understood how to arrange and emphasise the key messages that would best resonate and persuade.

The concept of ‘arrangement’ is not new. It is one of the Five Cannons of Rhetoric defined by the ancient writers such as Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian who said: “The whole art of oratory, as the most and greatest writers have taught, consist of five parts: invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery.”

Often overlooked, it is the clever arrangement of your argument that enables you to express it to greatest effect. The Greek word was taxis– to arrange your troops for battle. A nice thought!  To win the (pitch) battle you need to lead with your key attacking force- your proposition or promise, (see Coe’s vision).

Don’t bury it somewhere in the depths of the charts. Describe this central thought in words that lend themselves to passionate articulation, not like so many dry corporate mission statements.

I suggest in my book you think of them as “words to woo your lover…”You should be able to condense your story or presentation to 50 persuasive words that capture the hearts, not just the minds of your audience. Some elevator pitches miss out on the emotional component.  Shakespeare, of course, said it best “Thou cannot speak of that thou dost not feel”

Then, pursuing the concept of arrangement, my suggestion is to obey the ‘rule of three’ (omnium trium perfectum). Or, put another way, don’t make the mistake of presenting a whole ‘shopping list ’of facts and arguments.  Lists have their place on a fridge door, as a reminder of what to do or buy. Lists do not have a place when you want to communicate with your audience. They deny emotional expression. You may have 20 burning issues to get across, but the audience will not easily take them in, or be moved by them, if you do not have a simple structure that guides their listening.

To make life easier for them you need to arrange your arguments (your troops) into no more than three themes that support your promise or subject. So, ‘burning issues’ can be arranged into ‘hot’, red hot’ and ‘flaming.’ Each of these can be separately developed but with no more than three supporting points.

Finally, having identified the emotional response you want and then arranging your messages to allow emotion in, what can be done to perform with emotion on the day? Rising to the occasion and outperforming your rivals, rather than the great solution, will so often be the difference between getting the job or the assignment, or not.

This is the essential role of rehearsal.  In my view it is the most neglected and ignored ingredient of pitch preparation yet is your best return on investment.

Delivering a pitch, whether from a platform or across a boardroom table or over coffee at Starbucks, you are on stage.

You need to tap into the actor in you. Connecting emotionally with a large group or a single interviewer in conversation, calls for a performance that reaches out, bringing emotional resonance to the words. Actors start off fully confident in their brilliant scripts written by a William Shakespeare or a Tennessee Williams. They are not worried about their content. All they are concerned with is how they can make their script come alive to their audience. No matter how experienced they may be, they rely on rehearsal to gauge their performance and its impact.

They don’t do this alone, practising to a mirror. That can be a useful exercise for checking timing or your memory, but it is not rehearsal. Rehearsal requires that you have someone standing in as an audience, like a director, who can tell you how you come cross.  You can’t judge yourself!

My advice to any presenter is to find a trusted colleague to rehearse you, and, where possible, rehearse each pitch or speech before you deliver it. Ask them not to comment on the words but on your performance, on the way you said it and on how it makes them feel and think.

Was my energy level high? Was it clear? Was my passion evident? (Words with huge meaning can be ‘lost’ in translation if spoken poorly. In any pitch you need the balance of logos (appealing to reason) and pathos (appealing to the emotion).Was I making eye contact? If you are looking down constantly, reading from notes, you lose connection and lose your audience. In rehearsal you can identify this and other mistakes and correct them. Was my body language open and expressive? Was I confident? Was I likeable? And, finally, was I myself, or better?

As Oscar Wilde reminded us, “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”

The ‘sin’ of failing to rehearse is wrapped up in my earlier premise that time spent on content, at the expense of performance is the common error. The excuse for not rehearsing is given as lack of time (although in truth it is one of many avoidance mechanisms!)

Too much time is spent being rational, striving to create perfect content. Too little time is spent perfecting delivery, being emotionally on song. If you want to win, let your emotions show and take this advice written two thousand years ago

“I would not hesitate to assert that a mediocre speech supported by all the power of delivery will be more impressive than the best speech unaccompanied by such power.’ Quintilian, Institutes of Oratory

 Michael Parker. IT’S NOT WHAT YOU SAY, IT’S THE WAY YOU SAY IT!

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THE ‘SPREZZATURA’ PERFORMANCE

Making the wedding speech of a lifetime or the crucial must-win pitch, the challenge is to rise to the occasion and perform at your best when it really matters. Why not go further and aim for a moment of sprezzatura.

DECORO-NEW  The sixteenth century Italian philosopher,  Baldassari  Castiglione, described the ideal approach as having two necessary principles. The first, ‘decoro’, is the graft, practice, preparation and rehearsal, the essential foundations for any performance.

sprezzatura    The second is ‘sprezzatura’,

This is  a word he coined. It has been described as the vital spark, the flash of lightening, recklessness, the art of nonchalance, a touch of the ridiculousness, rehearsed spontaneity, studied carelessness, practised naturalness, joy in improvisation, embracing the unknown and enjoying it …

We see it in the greatest of stage actors, musicians and athletes. Not every-time though, even from a  Yo-yo Ma, a  Kate Blanchet or a Usain Bolt. For us ‘normal players’ it will be even more elusive but worth chasing,

Assuming you have done all the hard graft, the preparation, the rehearsal allow yourself to let go.  Be free in the moment.

Step outside your comfort zone, stop worrying about yourself, start caring for your audience. Try taking risk,  delight in your performance and who knows sprezzatura may strike.

 

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WEDDING SPEECH ADVICE FOR THE ROYAL WEDDING

Most wedding speeches are only listened to by the guests present. They are not instantly relayed to the world. Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are media savvy and unlikely to allow any speakers at their wedding  to emulate the Best Man at the last , almost Royal wedding.

One newspaper reported ‘toe-curling ten minute address made several close-to-the knuckle references including likening Pippa to a dog’, He ignored these rules

  1. Do not embarrass anyone, particularly the couple, don’t wash dirty linen in public
  2. Tell stories not jokes, particularly off the internet. Sound false and can fall flat
  3. Don’t go on too long, temptation to hog stage.3 to 7 minutes enough for most
  4. Don’t just talk to your peer group. Grannies will not ‘get’ your in-jokes
  5. Check your speech with the real heroes of the day, the couple. Don’t be the hero.
  6. Think about what your audience want to hear, not what you want to say.

For more wedding speech wisdom check my  book Unaccustomed As I Am… The Wedding Speech Made Easy  in bookshops and on Amazon

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RULES IGNORED IN BEST MAN SPEECH AT PIPPA WEDDING

Apparently Pippa (then) Middleton  ignored my advice to her, for her best man, in my last post. There are many simple ‘rules’ that would have helped him. if he saw them he ignored them. The result according to various press reports was dismal :

‘posh wedding guests squirming’,  ‘best man turns air blue with bawdy jokes’, lewd best man speech flops’,  ‘toe-curling ten minute address made several close-to-the knuckle references including likening Pippa to a dog’, ‘crude sex references’  ‘unfunny, dull, clichés,’  ‘beyond cringe’,  ‘awkward silences’ and ‘dull, disrespectful and pilfered from the internet’.

The best man is quoted in one paper as saying : “As far as I’m aware it went fine.”

On the premise that typically the only speeches that get talked about are the bad ones, then he may have achieved some desired ‘celebrity’.

However…. if he had noted these simple ‘rules’ everyone would have liked his speech, not just him.

  1. Do not embarrass anyone, particularly the couple, don’t wash dirty linen in public
  2. Tell stories not jokes, particularly off the internet. Sound false and can fall flat
  3. Don’t go on too long, temptation to hog stage. 7 minutes enough for most
  4. Don’t just talk to your peer group. Grannies will not ‘get’ your in-jokes
  5. Check your speech with the real heroes of the day, the couple. Don’t be the hero.
  6. Think about what your audience want to hear, not what you want to say.

For more wedding speech wisdom check my  book Unaccustomed As I Am… The Wedding Speech Made Easy  in bookshops and on Amazon

 

 

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ADVICE TO PIPPA. PERFECT WEDDING SPEECHES COST NOTHING!

The average wedding in the UK costs upwards of £20K. Venue, food, drink, flowers, invitations, accessories, accommodation, travel- (not to forget the outfits!) What will Pippa Middleton’s cost?

023_icing_on_cakeAs she prepares for the big day, it’s worth noting that Just about the only ingredients that come free are the speeches. They will, or should be, the icing on the cake of the perfect day.

The speakers will have been chosen. However, there is advice they can be given to help ensure the memorable day is made even more memorable.

Here are six suggestions.

  1. Stick to their brief.  Whichever speech they’re making, they must find out what is expected. Who else is speaking and what will they be saying. How long should they speak? Are there any specifics to include? Anything they shouldn’t mention?

_brain_gears2. Don’t procrastinate. The  speeches may be weeks away but it is never too soon to start preparing. They should have been written and checked by now. Leaving proper rehearsal time.

The more they rehearse, the  more spontaneous they will be. The more they rehearse the more confident they will be.

3. Find a thread. Rather than a random collection of reminiscences and anecdotes, it will help if they ‘hang’ their speech around a single theme or thread. The speech will flow better and be more memorable.

4. Don’t embarrass.  It is always tempting to tell a story  that maybe hilarious to a few who are ‘in the know’ but which is meaningless or, much worse, offensive to other guests. This is unlikely in such a high profile event but it is one of the commonest errors.

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Don’t wash dirty linen in public!

 

5. Keep it short. Make sure they stick to the time agreed beforehand. (Generally, two to three minutes for the shorter speeches and seven or so for the longest.)  Don’t let them fall into the ‘nervousness’   trap of going on and on. As Dorothy Parker said: “Brevity is the soul of lingerie.” 

6. Tell stories, not jokes.  Don’t let them feel that jokes are obligatory. The audience will lap up personal stories well told and laugh along with them. They  will be on much safer, and easier ground if they let themselves off the hook of being the next ‘great’ stand-up co061_jokermic.

My book Unaccustomed As I Am… The Wedding Speech Made Easy is in bookshops and on Amazon

 

 

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HOW TO HANDLE WEDDING SPEECH NERVES-10 IDEAS

Ten things to bear in mind to help you manage nerves about your wedding speech

1. It’s natural to feel nervous. As Mark Twain said ” There are two types of speakers: those who get nervous and those who are liars.”

2. The audience is on your side. Unlike some speaking events, like a political rally, you face no hostility . They  are not in critical mood. They don’t mind mistakes. They want you to succeed.

3. Know what is expected in your speech. Which speech? How long? Who’re you toasting? Who are you thanking? What must you cover? What to avoid?  Answers early on lends confidence to preparation.

4.  Don’t procrastinate.  For some, nerves leads to delay in preparing the speech. This increases pressure on performance leaving no time to rehearse . Get your brain in gear ,

5. Master your start. The toughest, nerviest time is when you stand up, your first few words. So keep them simple, easy to say, no ‘clever’ joke. If you practise nothing else, practise the first 30 seconds. Master these, the rest will seem easy.

6. Take ‘bite -size’chunks. Don’t think of your speech as, say, 5 daunting continuous minutes. Break it down into separate short sections. 30 seconds or so. Pause between them. This will  make your delivery easier

7. Signpost notes for security.  Reading a script, eyes down, loses your audience. Prepare short ‘signpost’ notes, to keep you on track. Pause, glance at them, look up, continue talking.

8. Keep it simple. Don’t write long paragraphs , difficult to deliver, adding to nervousness, difficult to listen to. Short sentences are easier to deliver. Avoid longdifficulttopronounce words .

9. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Ask a friend to ‘to direct’ you, How do you come across? The more you rehearse the more spontaneous you’ll be. The more you rehearse the more confident you’ll be.

10. Let your body talk. Just before speaking, find a private space and do some vigorous powerful movement, fist pumping ( I am the greatest! ) The powerful feeling will carry into your speech. Try it! And listen to Beyoncé:

 ” I get nervous when I don’t get nervous. If I’m nervous I know I’m going to have a good show.”

More ideas  are in my book  Unaccustomed As I Am … The Wedding Speech Made Easy    Amazon now and bookshops.

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HOW WEDDING PLANNERS CAN IMPROVE WEDDING SPEECHES

I don’t envy wedding planners!  They have the  toughest of jobs making that special day even more special.  Everything comes under their influence! They don’t make the cake but they make sure it’s the best possible.

They don’t make the wedding speeches but could they do more to make them the best possible? Here are some practical suggestions.

096_conquer_nervesThorough briefing of all your wedding speakers  Your speakers will normally have been chosen because they are family members or close friends. Not necessarily for their speaking ability. And among them, even experienced speakers will be relatively ‘unaccustomed’ to  speaking at a wedding. This is where the  briefing counts. It gives you, the planner, the reassurance that the speakers know what is expected of them. It gives the speaker answers to essential questions that they need to write their best speech,

The questions wedding speakers should ask.  Which speech – who is the subject? How long should the speech be ( Get agreement!). What is the ‘pecking’ order of speaking? Who is to be thanked, for what? Are there any specific things to cover? Are there any no no’s that must not be mentioned?  What is the make-up of the guest audience – numbers, ages, groupings, relationships, languages, nationalities, other? Where do speeches fit into the timetable (speaking to late evening festivity is different to morning alertness!) Is there a ‘theme’ for the day to be reflected in the speech?

Offer draft discussion opportunity. Some speakers will welcome this. An informed second opinion is reassuring before finalising a speech and a date in the diary is a useful ‘copy date’ to keep speech preparation on track. Reassuring to you too

Some will resist any opportunity. This might reflect  confidence and competence from your speaker. But often it’s the reaction of the last-minute merchants. Having agreed to speak, possibly overcoming nervousness to say yes, they are putting off actually doing anything. You cant insist of course, but  these are the speakers who need, and will benefit, from your intervention.

Speech Delivery and performance support. However much preparation goes into a speech it is the way it is delivered that will make it a success. As the wedding planner you can help in two important ways. Firstly make sure the speaker can check out the venue well speaking.  Can they be seen, can they be heard, does the sound system work, are they well positioned to talk without being crowded, are they too distant, do they have water/champagne to hand?

IMG_2140Second and most essential (but most will resist) suggest, persuade them to rehearse. Several rehearsals, to a ‘director’  (it might be you?) to see how they come across. Clearly, loud enough, looking up,     pausing .  Tell your speakers the more they rehearse the more spontaneous they will be, the more they, and the guests will enjoy it, the more confident they will be.

So will you.

 

 

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ARE WEDDING SPEECHES GOOD ENOUGH?

Before writing my book I wanted to understand just what guests expected from the wedding speech. Did the speeches live up to their expectations?

In my research I asked lots of questions of lots of people, guests at all kinds of weddings from the traditional to the unconventional. The expectations were the expected – to satisfy natural curiosity, to be entertained, but not in an X-Factor style, and to share the emotions of a special day.

032_lightersGuests are not in critical mode, like a first-night theatre audience. You will feel the love.They start off on the side of the speaker, fully appreciative of what it takes to stand up in front of an audience, perhaps for the first-time. Probably feeling relieved it’s not them up there!

Given this benign attitude, which should encourage the speaker, how are speeches rated? The three main groups can be categorised under these headings:

“A FOR EFORT – COULD DO BETTER” 

This is the majority. A lot of work has gone into finding interesting stories, many will have a clever theme or narrative to hold the speech together, they will have ticked the boxes asked of them. Their  wedding speeches will, deservedly, be appreciated.096_conquer_nerves

The caveat of ‘could do better’ will be aimed at the delivery, the performance. This is not surprising given the average lack of ‘stand-up’ experience. Most will have concentrated their energy on the script only. They fail to realise that by the simple act of rehearsal they can raise their confidence, hence their delivery. The more you rehearse, the better you’ll feel, and more confidently you’ll perform.

“All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.”    Sean O’Casey

“ICING ON THE CAKE”

A minority, these speakers, some experienced, some not, understood that their role was to add to the experience, not to be the experience!

023_icing_on_cakeInterestingly, the positive praise mentioned little by way of specific comment on the content. What it really related to was the manner of the speaker, the sense of sharing the moment, engaging with them, not talking at them. These speakers had searched for a deep understanding of the audience with whom they were sharing this special moment in time.

The happiest conversation is that of which nothing is remembered but a general effect of pleasing impression.” Taylor Swift

“LETTING THE SIDE DOWN”

Definitely a minority but these are the ones people talk about most and without prompting. Weddings may only be remembered for the bad speech! And often the problem is one of ego rather than expertise. Wanting to be the centre of attention rather than being support to the main act.040_dirty_laundry

The remarked upon ‘sins’ include ignoring the guests not in their own peer group; liking the sound of their own voice so going on and on; and thinking they’re hilariously funny telling a string of googled jokes or worst of all telling an embarrassing story at someone else’s expense.

You mustn’t upstage the bride.” Ian McKellen

To raise your speech to the ‘icing on the cake’, you will find plenty of useful advice in my book, “Unaccustomed as I am … the Wedding Speech Made Easy.‘ Bookshops and Amazon now.

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WHAT DO GUESTS WANT FROM THE WEDDING SPEECH?

096_conquer_nerves Any speech, at a wedding or any other occasion, will only be good if it lives up to the expectations of the audience. Before starting to prepare, any speaker needs to establish some reasonable understanding of this particular audience, at this particular wedding.

This seems obvious but the typical audience of wedding guests can be extremely diverse, more so than, say, a political or business gathering

The families, and their friends of the couple may never have met. Hopefully they will not be like the feuding Montagues and Capulets in Romeo and Juliet.

034_three_generations_ However, they may be from different continents, cultures, religions, political affiliations with little in common apart from a connection with the couple.

Then there is the issue of tackling, say, six or seven different generations from ‘troublesome’ teenagers (and children) to doting grand (even great) parents.

It is not possible to identify all the different interests they have but an understanding of what they have in common can be reached. To help me in this I carried out some informal research talking to numerous guests, and speakers, from a variety of weddings. Their expectations fall into three areas.

Firstly, did I learn anything new about the couple, or the wider family member? Guests come from far and wide, can be out of touch. They are curious! Your speech is a rare opportunity for them to catch up, get some gossip. It will play a role in completing a special day.

061_jokerSecondly, was it entertaining? Not in a belly laugh way. Contrary to popular perception, most guest do not expect, or indeed want you to be a ‘stand-up’ comic telling second-hand jokes.

What goes down best of all is the humour that comes naturally from the telling of real and personal stories and anecdotes.

And finally, was there a touch of genuine feeling? Whatever the nature of the wedding, from deeply traditional to wildly unconventional, at its heart is the union of the couple. Simple, heartfelt words that capture the emotion of the day will make the speech. And verses from a favourite poet are often a wonderful way to lend expression to your feelings.

There are a lot more ideas in my book Unaccustomed As I Am… The Wedding Speech Made Easy  published November 3rd. You can pre-order on Amazon

 

 

 

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WHY QUOTE A QUOTE IN YOUR WEDDING SPEECH?

144_marlene_smoking

” I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognised wiser than oneself.”

 MARLENE DIETRICH 

 

 

It’s easy to search for quotations. The trick is to look for the ones that are relevant to what you’re trying to say, making a point that adds a degree of memorability to your speech.  Here are a few taken from my book.

 “The future for me is already a thing of the past-                                                                                        You were my first love and you will be my last.”          BOB DYLAN

Love is the greatest refreshment in life.”                PABLO PICASSO

“How do you spell ‘love’?”-Piglet                                                                                                                   “You don’t spell it … you feel it.” – Pooh                 A.A.MILNE

Dammit, sir, it is your duty to get married. You can’t always be living for pleasure.” OSCAR WILDE

Longed for him. Got him. Shit.”                        MARGARET ATTWOOD

 

 There are lots more in my book Unaccustomed As I Am… The Wedding Speech Made Easy  published November 3rd. You can pre-order on Amazon

                                                                         

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20 WEDDING SPEECH DON’TS!

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1.Don’t procrastinate, prepare early

2.Don’t ignore your brief

3.Don’t think a drink will make you a hero

4.Don’t go on and on and on

5.Don’t embarrass the guests

068_caveman_wedding 6. Don’t hesitate to tell personal stories

7.Don’t be shy about reciting poetry

8.Don’t read a script, looking down

9. Don’t fail to rehearse, rehearse

10. Don’t try to tell jokes when you can’t

101_lungs11.Don’t speak if you can’t be heard

12.Don’t use hard-to-pronounce words

13. Don’t get lost in complicated sentences

14. Don’t talk without           pausing

15. Don’t forget to breathe (now and again

017_jelly16. Don’t assume everyone knows you

17. Don’t focus only on your own friends

18. Don’t forget the names that matter

19. Don’t, please don’t forget to smile

20. Don’t worry about nerves, everyone has them

I get nervous when I don’t get nervous. If I’m nervous I know I’m going to have a good show.”      BEYONCE

 

 

 

 

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WISE WORDS FROM ARISTOTLE ON THE PERFECT WEDDING SPEECH

if Aristotle was around today what advice would he give for making the perfect wedding speech? Pitchcoach_IMAGES_02131pillarHe would probably suggest we master the ‘five canons of rhetoric.’ As expressed by Quintilian:

“The whole art of oratory, as the most and greatest writers have taught, consists of five parts; invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery.”

invention ( inventio is the vital stage of exploring all possible avenues and sources for what you might say, anecdotes, stories, interesting facts and milestones – anything that may be of interest. It can help to create a mind-map. The goal is to find an idea, a narrative thread, for your speech.

Arrangement (dispositio) covers the organising of your content to make the best impact. In Greek, the word is taxis – to arrange your troops for battle! The-audience-is-not-your-enemyWhile not fighting your guests, it helps you to deliver it, and them to follow it, if you have a framework.. One is known as ‘the rule of three.’ It reflects Aristotle’s three act plot structure. For example you could introduce your narrative thread as ‘milestones on a romantic journey’ and arrange your stories – the heart of any speech- around ‘early days’, ‘significant stops’ and ‘arrival’.

Style (elocutio) This is  is all about making the guests want to listen to you!                                    068_caveman_wedding Seems obvious, but the point being made is that it is all about how you do it – the way you come across. The common error is to focus only on content, slaving over the writing and correcting until the last minute. Thus leaving little or no time to work, by rehearsing, on the impression you make with expression and body language. Essential to making the emotional connection you want.

Memory  (memoria)                                                                                        For the ancient orators notepaper was rare! They had to memorise their speeches and learn to deliver them spontaneously, something you will want to do. Something you can’t do reading from a script. The best ‘spontaneous’ solution is to prepare notes to refer to, only if really needed. You’ll have a good grasp of your content so the notes need only contain key headings and ‘signpost’ words.

Delivery (actio)                                                                                                                                     _ding_ding When asked what was the most important component in oratory Demosthenes replied ‘DELIVERY‘. Asked what wa second, he responded, ‘DELIVERY’ and, third, ‘DELIVERY‘.

You can’t escape rehearsal if you want to deliver. Keep in mind these final wise words:

‘I would not hesitate to assert that a mediocre speech supported by all the power of delivery will be more impressive than the best speech unaccompanied by such power.’ Quintilian, Institutes of Oratory

My book Unaccustomed As I Am… The Wedding Speech Made Easy is published November 3rd. you can pre-order on Amazon

 

A WEDDING SPEECH BOOK THAT IS “PLEASINGLY UNGENDERED”

This nice expression  captures the principles in my book, “Unaccustomed as  I am … the Wedding Speech Made Easy,” It came from Kate Willis’ review in You and Your Wedding magazine. I like it! When I set out to write, I was surprised to find that the majority of existing titles  were specific to the ‘best man’ or ‘groom’ but few if any to the bride or best woman.

Traditions are changing, slowly

This bias can be explained, if not excused, by ‘tradition’. After all the word marriage comes from the Latin word ‘mas’ meaning male or masculine. And ‘tradition’ still influences much of the ceremonial. The Anglo-Saxon father would use his daughter as a form of currency to pay off his debts, the bride standing on the left is rooted in the groom’s need to keep his sword arm free for action to prevent ‘bride kidnapping!’

Some, not all, of these traditions  continue but one which is changing is in speech making. It is no longer a male bastion.  Most women I spoke to in my research, while still less likely to speak, saw it as much their role as that of the men. However this does not mean a need for books aimed at the bride or best woman .

The principles of the wedding speech are constant

In twenty years of coaching presentations and speech making, roughly equal numbers women  and men, I have never needed to give, or been asked for, different advice depending on gender. As I spell out in my book the principles of speeches are a constant:

“Whether formal or impromptu, religious or civil, straight or same sex, first, second, third or fourth marriage, at the heart is a constant: the celebration of the union of a couple. And the basics of a good speech are constant too. Depending on the nature of the event and the audience – hundreds of guests in a grand ballroom or a handful outside on  garden lawn – you may tailor the content of your speech, but stick to the principles.”

If you are speaking as a bride, best woman or mother you can find these constant principles in my book.  (So will the men.)

Unaccustomed As I Am … The Wedding Speech Made Easy” amzn.to/2bEoQSH