The Art of Speaking  

Give great wedding speech

Over the past 1 ½ years, weddings have looked a bit different than they previously did.

Large parties with crowded dance floors and endless hugs have been replaced by small, intimate gatherings of the bride’s and groom’s closest friends and immediate family members.

For many — including my fiancé and I — the celebration has been postponed until larger groups are allowed and out-of-country family members can attend.

While this has been bad news for many, those who dread the idea of giving a wedding speech in front of a large group of people may have appreciated the break.

But with restrictions lifting and larger wedding gatherings just around the corner, it’s important to remember that being asked to give a speech is an incredible privilege, and something that should be embraced.

Below are five tips on how you can crush your next wedding speech and deliver a meaningful message to the bridge and groom on their special day.

Tip No. 1 – Include an introduction, a body (personal story) and a conclusion

If books are judged by their covers, speeches are judged by their first few sentences.

An introduction is incredibly important, because it sets the tone for the bulk of your speech.

Strong introductions usually include a sentence or two that hook the audience and set them up for the main theme of the speech, which usually includes a personal story.

For example: “Many of us think of John as hardworking, kind and humble, which are all undoubtedly attributes of his. However, there was a day, back in the third grade, when none of these words would have accurately described John’s behaviour…”

With this two-sentence description, I’ve given the audience a lot of information.

First, they know the speech isn’t going to be a roast or mean-spirited, because I started off by saying kind words about John. But the audience also knows there is a — likely humorous — story coming up, and I’m going to share about when John did something bad as a third-grader.

The main section of the speech — also known as “the body” — is the best fit for a story. An ideal length of time for a wedding speech is five to seven minutes, so keep this in mind when deciding how many details to include within your story.

The conclusion is your opportunity to wrap up the speech, say kind words about the bride and groom and tell them why you’re excited for their future.

Tip No. 2 – Get the audience to laugh… early

While giving a speech at a wedding can be intimidating, the good news is that the audience wants you to succeed. They also want to laugh.

By including humour in your speech — especially early on — you’re going to do two things. First, you will become more relaxed and give yourself a boost of confidence. Second, you will relax the audience. When audience members laugh, they are assured that listening to the speech is likely going to be an enjoyable experience.

I suggest avoiding inside jokes, which only make sense to a small group of people. Unfortunately, inside jokes seem to be incredibly common in wedding speeches, and it often results in a couple people laughing awkwardly and the rest of the guests feeling left out.

Also remember: the longer you wait to inject humour into the speech, the more difficult it will become to make the audience laugh later in the speech.

Tip No. 3 – Don’t write out your speech word-for-word

I understand this tip may be an incredibly scary concept for many, but the truth is: the less a speaker refers to his/her notes, the better the speech usually is.

I’m not saying you can’t have anything written down; however, stick to a few words or phrases that remind you of what you’re going to talk about.

In the previous example of the speech for John, instead of writing down the entire word-for-word story of what happened to him in third grade, you could simply write down subtle key words about various elements of the story so you don’t forget.

You should be able to fit all of your notes on a few cue cards, rather than multiple pieces of paper.

Tip No. 4 – Practice makes perfect

Don’t wing it when it comes to delivering a wedding speech.

A lot of people like to joke and say that they wrote their speech the morning of the wedding. Either that isn’t true (they’ve actually practised it a few times, and are simply trying to lower expectations), or, if it is true, the speech won’t end up being very good.

One way to practise is by recording yourself on your phone so you can watch back and discover parts of the speech that can use improvement, or any filler words you may be using such as “ahh” or “umm.”

You can also ask a friend — who ideally is not attending the wedding, to avoid spoilers — to watch you practise and give constructive feedback.

Being asked to give a speech at a wedding is a privilege, and by practising your speech, you are showing respect to the bride and groom.

Tip No. 5 – Speak from the heart

Of all the five tips, this is the most important.

If you’ve been asked to give a speech at a wedding, it’s because you are important to the bride and groom; they care about what you have to say.

It’s great to add humour, practice your speech and use limited notes… but the most important thing is that the words you say come from the heart.

In Tip #1, I talked about the importance of an intro, a body and a conclusion. The best place for the meaningful, from-the-heart words is the conclusion, which gives you an opportunity to wrap a bow on your speech and wish the newlyweds a lifetime of happiness.

If you’re interested in learning more about being an impactful communicator, head over to my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTEVBsx27Ub6vv0gu6ARsAg?view_as=subscriber

Wade Paterson is a champion public speaker with Kelowna AM Toastmasters.

The lost art of penmanship

By John Cadley
Toastmaster Magazine

I took notes for this column and I can’t read them, which is ironic since the topic is handwriting, otherwise known as penmanship, and the lost art thereof.

Apparently, I’ve proved my own point. For instance, I can’t tell if I’ve written “small” or “smell,” and I would not want to make the mistake of saying someone’s handwriting smelled, even if the actual content stinks.

Be that as it may, I think I can decipher enough of my jottings to present a cogent discussion on the disappearing practice of putting pen to paper and writing something longer than a phone number.

One such example would be called a “letter” — i.e., words written upon a sheet of paper in a style called cursive, which involves the forming of letters, words, and sentences with one’s own hand using some form of writing implement, such as a pen, meant for another person to read easily and clearly.

Does any of that sound familiar? If you are of a “certain age” I’m sure it does.

If, however, you were formed by the digital age, you may think I’m older than stone tools. Or you would be like my 27-year-old son, who saw a handwritten missive on my desk and asked what it was. I told him it was a letter from a friend.

“Why didn’t she send an email?” he asked.

“Because she believes that communicating with her own hand creates more of a personal, meaningful connection with the recipient.”

Perplexed, my son then inquired, “Why didn’t she just use FaceTime?”

At that point I said to him, as the great musician Louis Armstrong said about the meaning of jazz, “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.”

But really — do they teach penmanship in school any more?

Do the students still sit and write The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog one thousand times until every oval fits precisely within the lines, every loop descends perfectly below it, and every child screams with writer’s cramp?

My research, to the extent that I can make it out, says yes and no. Penmanship is taught but not emphasized. In other words, you must know how to write your name so you can sign the contracts and loan applications that burden you with the crushing legal and financial obligations of a truly respectable member of society.

Beyond that — say, if you want to write a whole sentence or even a paragraph — well, I suppose you can pursue that as a hobby.

Before the advent of typewriters and word processors, good penmanship was, of course, essential. Without it you could get into some serious trouble.

Thomas Jefferson composed the American Declaration of Independence, but it was Timothy Matlack, a beer brewer from Pennsylvania with legendary handwriting skills, who transcribed it to the page.

Had the document been scrawled by a lesser hand, King George III might have read “We hold these truths to be self-evident” as “We hold these tooths to be self-evident,” in which case the colonists would have received not their freedom, but several options for comprehensive dental insurance.

Likewise, from time immemorial physicians have been notorious for their illegible handwriting, and occasionally even for their poor spelling.

This is attributed to their voluminous note-taking during medical school and their packed schedules once in practice.

Who can remember how to spell epididymitis, much less write it legibly, when there are two sore throats, one ear infection, a bruised sitz bone, a mysterious rash, and a pharmaceutical salesperson hawking a new drug for wart removal waiting to see you — all before lunch?

he one exception is prescriptions, which doctors take great care to write precisely and clearly.

No clinician wants a patient to leave the pharmacy with a bottle labelled Take two capsules three hours before ded. They are all too aware that medications are far less effective after ded than before.

If you’ve given up on handwriting, I encourage you to give it another chance.

Research says it makes you smarter, you don’t need batteries, it’s reassuringly personal in our impersonal age, and you will certainly make an impression.

Plus, you will never have to suffer the agony of a devastating technical error. Just imagine if the Declaration of Independence had been written in Microsoft Word and somebody had accidentally hit “Delete.”

John Cadley is a former advertising copywriter, freelance writer and musician living in Fayetteville, New York. Learn more at www.cadleys.com. This article appeared in the June issue of Toastmaster Magazine.

Losing a tattoo argument

By John Cadley
Toastmaster Magazine

By I wish I had joined the debate team in high school.

My reason for not doing so was the reason you don’t do anything in high school: It was Not Cool.

I feared if I joined the debate team I would be put in the same class of losers as honour students, valedictorians, and student body presidents, not to mention the most scorned group of all adolescent pariahs — the chess club.

I was convinced that over the door of their meeting place was a sign: Abandon Hope of Ever Being Cool,
All Ye Who Enter Here.

No, I simply couldn’t sink that low. Instead, I set about meeting all the requirements for membership in The Cool:

  • Bad grades
  • Disappointed parents
  • Class clowning
  • Detention
  • Familiarity with law enforcement
  • At least one girlfriend with a juvenile criminal record.

The first time I truly regretted that decision was when my then-14-year-old son wanted to get a tattoo. Being underage, he needed my consent, which I was not about to give.

There followed an ongoing debate in which he stunned me with a degree of knowledge, reasoning, and persuasive argument I did not know he possessed.

You must understand, this was a high school student who didn’t know who won the Second World War (I don’t know—Hawaii?).

Yet, here he was, presenting well-thought-out rationales that included references to:

  • America’s Bill of Rights (apparently “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” includes psychedelic body art)
  • Citations of various legal precedents concerning the emancipation of minors
  • A deep dive into clinical dermatology supported by the requirements for safe body inking as stipulated in New York State Article 4-B: Regulations for Body Piercing and Tattooing.

I almost gave him permission just for doing the work. But I didn’t. I said “No,” and when he asked, “Why?” I won a resounding victory with the masterful rebuttal: “Because I said so.”

Only I didn’t win and we both knew it. He clobbered me, and I resolved that the next time we had such an encounter, I would be prepared.

Consulting a website on debating, I learned that “a good debater never deviates from the topic. He or she knows the topic thoroughly and has the ability to clearly place points and express everything” (from one Renata Gready).

This differed from my experience of American presidential debates, in which a good debater never addresses the topic, knows zero about the subject, misses the point entirely, and expresses clearly absolutely nothing.

I then tried to study the famous Abraham Lincoln–Stephen Douglas debates of 1858, until I realized there were seven of them, with a one-hour opener and 90-minute rebuttal for each man.

This would not do for a person who lacks the patience to read the washing instructions on a cotton shirt.

To streamline the process, I went right to a site called Rules of Debate, learning that one of the most common formats pits two teams, each consisting of two or three people, against each other.

The Affirmative side must defend a given proposition and the Negative must attack it — sort of like a husband and wife deciding how to spend money.

In either case, “he or she who asserts must prove” — i.e., any statement must be supported with “enough evidence and logic to convince an intelligent, but previously uninformed person that it is more reasonable to believe the assertion than to disbelieve it.”

No doubt this works under controlled conditions, but in the wider world, evidence and logic have proven to be less than effective in convincing anybody of anything.

In fact, exhaustive scientific research concludes that of the 7.7 billion people currently inhabiting planet Earth, evidence and logic have caused no more than 42 of them to admit they were wrong, possibly fewer given the statistical margin for error.

During the questioning period, “the questioner may ask any fair, clear question that has a direct bearing on the debate,” thus preventing a male questioner from asking his female opponent, “What are you doing after the final rebuttal?”

Furthermore, the person being questioned must answer with no help from his or her colleagues, so you can’t say, “Let me get back to you on that.”

Finally, there is a judge to decide the winner. There is no judge in real life. There are 7.7 billion judges and 7.7 billion winners, minus 42.

My son has a tattoo now, of course. Oddly enough, so do I. He persuaded me. Talk about losing a debate.

John Cadley is a former advertising copywriter, freelance writer and musician living in Fayetteville, New York. Learn more at www.cadleys.com. This article appeared in the May issue of Toastmaster magazine toastmasters.org/magazine

Words are like matches

When you play with words, your meaning could go up in smoke.

By John Cadley

I was in a men’s clothing store recently when I happened upon a display of shirts marked “performance flannel.”

I was sorely tempted to ask a salesperson, “What time does the performance start?”

I didn’t, of course, and not just out of courtesy, but because I spent 33 years as an advertising copywriter creating the same sort of catchy phrases.

My friends joked that I lied for a living, which I did not. I simply dipped the truth in sugar. You must admit that “performance flannel” sounds better than just plain “flannel” and, while it doesn’t sing or dance or juggle flaming torches, it does, by keeping you warm, perform its duty as a flannel shirt. Close enough.

It is unfortunate, however, when someone tries to dip the truth in sugar and misses the bowl entirely. I saw an example of this on a billboard for a convenience store that read: If you don’t love our coffee, it’s free.

This seems to assume that if their coffee tastes like crankcase oil, I’ll like it better if it’s free, because people like anything that’s free, right?

In fact, I’ll be so be grateful for their generosity I won’t accuse them of trying to poison me. Or … what if I like their coffee but don’t really love it. Half price?

If “performance flannel” is legitimate, so too is “trained psychiatrist.” A trained psychiatrist sounds good, but if you’re untrained you’re not a psychiatrist, you’re my neighbour, who will be happy to diagnose what is wrong with you — not to mention the entire human race — free of charge.

In the same category, we find the “factory-trained technician,” which I can only take to mean that a technician trained in a factory is somehow more qualified than one trained elsewhere … like a classroom, maybe?

And what of this pandemic? If anything calls for sugar coating, it’s a worldwide plague that forces you to spend 24 hours a day with your children.

To make it more palatable, we refer to these times as “challenging,” “uncertain,” “trying,” or “unprecedented” —words that conjure images of warriors fighting gallantly in a great struggle, even if it only means wrestling a senior citizen in the supermarket for the last roll of toilet paper.

For politicians, of course, sugar coating is baked into the job description. It’s a legislator’s job to tell voters what they want to hear. If by some strange coincidence it happens to be true, that’s a bonus.

On the other hand, a politician must always appear to be telling the truth lest she or he lose the trust of the people who don’t want to hear it.

To accomplish this act of linguistic prestidigitation, a pol will frequently begin his or her remarks with “Make no mistake” or “Let me be clear.”

This positions the speaker as a true statesman who is about to take a definite stand on some issue whether the audience likes it or not — which, of course, they do because 27 focus groups have said so.

Another way of putting it might be: “This seemingly bold and risky position I’m taking is no mistake because my exhaustive demographic research makes it clear you’ll love it.”

As you might imagine, the medical profession faces special challenges here. Certain clinical diagnoses are best not stated bluntly lest the patient add panic disorder to his other maladies. Would you rather have a nice cholecystectomy or hear your doctor say, “Your gallbladder’s shot. I gotta open you up and pull it out?”

On the other hand, there are certain occasions when a patient might like a little more information. Case in point: The results of my latest physical exam indicated tersely that it was “unremarkable.”

Now, this is a good thing — my physician found nothing of concern — yet I somehow felt slighted. When a person my age gets a clean bill of health, it’s pretty remarkable, and I think “remarkably unremarkable” would have been a fine way to say it.

I don’t sugar coat anything, especially when it comes to transgressions against my beloved English language. For example, when someone references a large number as “hundreds and hundreds,” it is incumbent upon me to reply, “That’s one hundreds too many.

“Hundreds includes all the hundreds there are. If I bought a carton of eggs would I say I purchased eggs and eggs? Really? Let’s think before we speak.”

Does that make me sound like an irascible old prig? Tell me. And don’t sugarcoat it.

John Cadley is a former advertising copywriter, freelance writer and musician living in Fayetteville, New York. Learn more at www.cadleys.com, and toastmasters.org.

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About the Author

The mission of a Toastmaster Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment that offers every member the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.

There are eight Toastmasters clubs in the Central Okanagan.

For more information and/or to find a club near you, check http://www.toastmasters.org.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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