Weather you’re the happy couple, best man, maid of honor or parents, writing a speech for the big day can add an extra dose of stress and anxiety to the busy weeks leading up the wedding. Delivering a speech or toast at the wedding or rehearsal dinner should be fun, but we know that sometimes the fun gets lost in the nerves and anticipation. Polly Meyer, founder of Image On Camera takes her clients from Ordinary to Extraordinary and we sat down with her to learn more about her philosophy on writing the best speech or toast you can. Check out Polly’s 10 tips for writing a killer speech or toast in this week’s VOW!
I’m giving you my Top 10 List of the Best Ways to Prepare for and Present a Toast!
- Don’t wait until the last minute. This seems like a no-brainer, but give yourself a couple weeks to work on it. Trust me, if you wait until the last minute, your anxiety will effectively hit the kill switch on any fun you’re having at the reception. On the other hand, if you prepare ahead, you’ll feel more confident at the mic. Confidence = Sexy. Cheers.
- Start jotting down things you remember about the bride and/or groom. Stories are powerful and can move an audience. Start thinking of stories that are funny, heartfelt or meaningful. What are their individual qualities or attributes? What have they done that made you want to roll your eyes or shake your head? What makes you smile when you think about them? The goal isn’t to embarrass them (too much), but to provide perspective, entertainment, and support for their marriage.
- Have a clear beginning, middle, and ending. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who rambles on and on? Don’t do that. As the big day gets closer, time yourself reading your speech. If its over 5 minutes, you’re holding the audience hostage. And hostage-taking isn’t cool.
- Include a Big Thanks. Thank everyone for coming out to celebrate this wonderful moment. First rule of friendship is to make people feel good about themselves.
- Practice makes perfect! Many people practice in front of a mirror, and that’s okay. But also practice presenting to small objects in a room. To the light switch, the cell phone, your dog, the Starbucks cup, etc. When you practice presenting to small objects, it ELIMINATES the “Deer in Headlights” effect. You know.., that anxiety, fear, and panic that can happen when you unexpectedly make eye contact with a guest while you’re presenting. Presenting to small objects while you practice will help you create a meaningful gaze that will draw others in as you give your speech. And the effect can be quite powerful.
- Give yourself a BIG HUG! I’m not getting all mushy here, not at all. MIT has done studies on anxiety, and discovered that hugs release oxytocin. Oxytocin is a feel-good chemical, and when released into the bloodstream, gives us a sense of well-being. Before presenting your toast, find a quiet space and imagine getting a warm hug from someone you care about. 20-30 seconds should do the trick, and any anxiety you’re feeling will start to diminish.
- Your mother was right, stand up straight! How you carry yourself is a huge part of your personal presence. Studies show that if you carry yourself with good posture and use open body language, it will literally give you feelings of confidence and power. And for the most part, people will believe what you project. So walk tall, baby!
- Show us your hands. When you give the toast, gesture normally with your hands. I put this out there, because once the adrenaline starts flowing, one of the first things to go are your gestures! Gesturing gives your toast animation, which will make you more interesting to watch; and it will boost your charisma in a big way. A few days before the wedding, start paying attention to how much you gesture during normal conversations. Make note of how you normally use your hands when speaking. And then practice your toast with intentional gesturing.
- Pay attention to your voice. Remember those days back in college, listening to your professor drone on in a monotone voice…? Ugh. But, not you! I’m sure you have a great voice! This would be a great time to use it to its full potential! Pause for dramatic effect. Speed it up to add excitement. Add volume for emphasis. And use a softer voice when you talk about something that touches your heart. How you use your voice will have a huge affect on your speech. So have fun with it!
- Be authentic. Sometimes adrenaline gets in the way of our authenticity. I’m all for getting a glass of wine or throwing back a shot of whiskey (only one) to take the edge off so that your authentic self can shine more brightly. But don’t get drunk, because everything you’ve prepped and practiced for will go right out the window. There’s nothing charismatic about slurred words brought on by too much liquid courage.
- I’m throwing an extra tip in for good measure: Have fun! This is your moment in the sun, and it’s a chance to do a lot of good. Be memorable for all the right reasons, and make the impact you deserve.
Q: What does Image On Camera Specialize in?
A: IMAGE ON CAMERA is a boutique communications firm. As Lead Consultant, my goal is to take my clients from ordinary to extraordinary by giving them the tools to stand out from the rest. Charisma and presence are THE greatest asset and career-changing skills on the planet. And everyone — from business professionals to politicians, CEO’s to pageant contestants — needs to learn them. I specialize in teaching professionals how to harness their charisma, use their body language, their voice, vocal tone, and gestures so they’re noticed for all the right reasons.
Q: What sets Image On Camera apart from the rest…?
A: The whole training experience! My company takes a unique approach to communications, and is known to deliver the most innovative and highest quality charisma and personal development training in Minnesota. Training at Image On Camera is an amazing mix of creative communications, sound science and practical tools. Everything is filmed, so you have instant feedback for faster results.
Q: How did you come up with these techniques?
A: My hard science approach is based on research and studies done at universities, such as, Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, MIT and Princeton. My soft science approach is based on my own experience as a trained actor and professional ballroom dancer. Everything I teach has been tested in university-based studies, inside my training studio, and out in the real world. I care deeply about my clients, and am committed to not only getting them results, but to make learning irresistibly fun.
Q: Where is Image on Camera located?
A: I have this awesome studio space in an old historic loft in the North Loop. I share the space with Allume International, and so the studio is filled with all of their video production equipment, including studio cameras and professional lighting. It’s a cool experience for my clients to be trained in the same setting that commercial actors work in. Nothing about this training experience is mediocre!
Q: When did Image on Camera Begin?
A: I’m a born-n-raised Minnesota girl with nothing more than passion, a studio and a dream, I’ve created a pretty awesome socially conscious business from scratch. Image On Camera officially opened its doors in 2013, but, honestly, I’ve been developing this training program most all of my life. I started out as your typical nerdy kid, socially awkward, and introverted. I completely lacked any grace, and I was oblivious to social codes. But I resolved to conquer my insecurities so I could be one of those normal human beings who could make people like them.
Q: What do you love about your job?
A: What I love about Image On Camera is seeing the transformation happen in my clients! My clients ROCK and I adore them! My mission is to help them kick some major ass and have a damn good time along the way. I also love that social change is baked into my business model. My training programs are tied to a non-profit partner who supports women and girls. Whenever you invest in yourself through one of my training programs, you’re also investing in making the world a better place.
Q: What is a typical day like at Image On Camera?
A: There’s no such thing as a typical day of training at Image On Camera, and that’s exactly how I like it. My day can transition from showing a sales rep the best way to develop rapport with customers, to training a team of medical providers on how to increase their Patient Experience Survey Scores, to teaching a pageant contestant how to come across powerfully during her interview. On the flip side, my clients use their session time standing tall like superman, walking around my studio with books on their heads, and learning to play chemist with their own brains. My goal is to have every customer feel blown away by their experience.
Q: Any fun projects your working on right now?
A: Right now, I’m having a lot of fun putting together this monthly forum for women called, Fierce Revolution, otherwise known as Wine Day, Wednesday. In this fantastic (and casual) group, women in the Twin Cities can stop by after work to chill, and learn simple strategies that’ll give them the courage and confidence to create the life they love. It’s designed as an open forum, so along with the tips and techniques they’ll learn from me, the women can share their own success stories and strategies. The goal is to provide opportunities for women to learn how to realize their full potential and make the impact they are meant to make. And we get to drink wine.
It’s still in the design phase, but so far its generating a lot of interest. The cost is $15 per session, and it covers the wine, studio space, and any materials. Those who come will get access to a private Facebook page where they’ll be a part of an active and supportive community, and they’ll be able to post questions to their fellow Fierce Revolutionists. Oh, and anyone who attends will have to bring their own wine glass.
Watch my Facebook page for updates on this, or reach out to me at Polly@imageoncamera.com if you’d like to be notified when we hit the ignition switch.
Q: What would you want someone in the process of developing a speech/toast to know?
A: Writing a toast or speech to present at a wedding is not for the faint of heart. And actually presenting it can be downright nerve wracking! Because of the anxiety a toast or speech creates, most often, we procrastinate and wait until the very last minute to throw something together. Or worse, we wing it!