Did you know that a recent survey discovered that public speaking is the number one fear in a person's life and rated above death? Well I have to admit that I used to belong to that group, but nowadays I have started to enjoy public speaking due to some simple tips I will share with you, and of course because of much practice I have had these last years. I still get butterflies in my stomach right before I start talking, but once I start, I forget all about it.
It seems like that is the same with a lot of other people and amongst them are famous public speakers, so you are not alone.
A good speech has a good opening and a good closing. Start by introducing yourself. Once you have their attention it would be nice to follow your introduction with something interesting or funny--whatever suits your style. The beginning of your toast is the time that people are focusing on you and really hearing what you say. Often people remember the beginning best because they are well focused on the speaker.
You could tell a story about the couple that not many guests have heard. Please remember to keep it short while excluding unnecessary explanations. The best stories are short and straight to the point; this way you keep their attention at all times. It is a good idea to not have it longer than 3 to 4 minutes.
Most speeches at a weeding are closed like a normal weeding toast, that is, by wishing the happy couple all the best in the future and by raising your glasses. You can read them a poem, or something in that nature, if you want to be a little different.
How to Start
It does not matter if you are standing up on a stage or at your table; it is always a good start to look around at all the guests to establish eye contact before you start. This will also make you look more confident. Also, stand straight with your weight equal on both feet.
Dealing with Nervousness
If your knees are shaky then it is a good idea to lean onto a table, but by all means don't sit down: that is not a good way to hold a speech. By standing, all, or at least most of the visitors, will see you. By standing you show the newlyweds your respect.
If your hands are shaky then you can stop them from shaking by keeping them behind your back, holding onto something, or just leave your index card on the table where you can see it.
If you are really nervous, then it is always a good idea to tell it to the guests. You could for example say, "I am sorry for my shaky voice, but this is not exactly my dream come true to stand up here in front of you all so please bear with me."
Since most people have the same fear of public speaking, 99% of them will understand you really well. Plus, when you're at a wedding the odds are that you know most of the people, so don't you worry.
Before the Wedding
This is very important; you have to practice the speech at least 5-7 times before the weeding. You start by writing it down word for word and then you practice at least 2-3 times in front of a mirror or a friend with the whole speech in your hands.
Then in step two you make a small index card (2x4 inches) containing all your keywords on which you use to help you remember the rest of the speech. For example if you have a sentence going like, "I remember when John, Stacy and I went on that trip to Iceland and..." then you just put the word Iceland on the index card. That one word will help you remember the whole story. This way you only have to write down 5-8 words to remember a speech that is 5-8 minutes long.
After you have written down your keywords, practice the speech another 2-3 times in front of the mirror or your friend. On the wedding day it should be enough to practice once in the morning with the index card and you should be good to go.