Funny things happen to people when they have to make speeches. OK, maybe funny isn’t the best word, but stress certainly has an effect. Even the most taciturn person can ask someone to pass the salt. On the other hand, standing in front of a roomful of people can render them incapable of saying something as basic as “Good evening”.
I am probably the world’s worst conversationalist. Anybody sitting next to me at a dinner is consigned to an evening of excruciatingly boring one-sided conversation. On the other hand, for some weird and – as yet – unexamined reason, I find it easier to be verbal when “speaking in public”. I’m too scared to bungy jump or take part in other extreme physical activities, but I’ll happily stand with microphone in hand without much more than a few key words scrawled onto a scrap of paper. I’m not suggesting that I am a fabulous public speaker, merely that the prospect doesn’t terrify me to a state of rigid silence.
From a caterer’s perspective speeches are both a blessing and a curse. The good side is the break in food service, which enables the kitchen to get organised again for the next round of food. The risk aspect arises with speeches before main course, especially if it’s something along the lines of rack of lamb that needs to be served not only warm, but also perfectly pink. Speeches that carry on too long can wreak havoc with even the most detailed production plans. Having worked in the kitchen at numerous weddings I can attest to the stress produced by a speechmaker who goes on and on … and on and on.
It should not surprise me that solutions to speechmaking problems abound on the internet. Parting with sums as nominal (relatively speaking) as $20 (sorry, $19.97) can get speechless Best Men, Grooms or Fathers-of-the-Bride a wide variety of resources, such as these:
Weddingspeech4u offers speech packages for just about anybody who has any claims to speaking at a wedding (as if the domain name left one in any doubt).
Bestmanspeechinsight specialises in speeches for … the Best Man.
Ultimatespeeches offers pre-written speeches for various members of the wedding party.
Finally, Publicspeakingsensation (no shortage of hyperbole in the domain name) asks only $19.97 for a claimed 380 minutes of audio-based home study.
Most of my public speaking involves presenting wine tastings. I encourage questions, as this not only involves the audience, but also offers many opportunities for humour. Needless to say, confidence levels (for both audience and presenter) grow with the consumption of alcohol, so the audience participation grows as the evening goes on. It is almost impossible not to have had fun when an evening has been spent in the company of friends, along with food and wine, by which point no-one gives the presentation a second thought.
At some point I, too, will need proper instruction. Until then I’ll keep my audience’s glasses full.