A successful speech is not just well written; it’s also well delivered. Public speaking is a performance, so use your whole body when making a speech. Get physical.
Let’s assume that you are an amazing speaker (you aren’t, but let’s pretend.) Your voice is a sonorous baritone. Your words are as profound as Churchill’s. Your delivery is as stirring as Martin Luther King’s. But wait. There’s still a problem.
The problem is your body. Speech makes up about 20 to 30% of communication. The rest is conveyed through non-verbal means: by facial expressions, eye-contact, gestures, how you stand, and where you stand.
Even if your verbal skills are perfect, it’s a major drawback if you are stiff, awkward, and don’t know what to do with your hands. However, if you learn how to use your body language as part of your communication toolbox, you can make a good wedding toast great.
Here are some practical tips for improving this essential component of speech-making.
1. Speak with Your Eyes
Man up and face the crowd. But don’t look at anyone person for too long, as that quickly gets weird. Just look around the room and at the end of each sentence, shift your gaze calmly at another person. Look them right in their pupils. Gaze directly into their souls. Judge them. And then continue with your next sentence.
2. Speak with Your Stride
Before you even say a word, as you stand up and head towards the spot from which you will give your toast, you should stride like the king of the animals. Once you arrive, pause and stand there like a proud lion, about to devour a family of missionaries. That room is your prey, and you are about to kill it and eat it. You should open your mouth like the big cat you are, and display your incisors. Let the audience know you are an absolute death machine, evolved over a hundred thousand years to be the ultimate predator of the veldt.
3. Speak with a Power Pose
Stand with your feet pointed directly ahead, about 12 inches apart, and your arms akimbo. This indicates leadership and courage. (Also, it’s what Superman does.) Throw your shoulders back and stand erect, hold your head up high, look at the room once more with the expression of cool disdain, like a god looking down from Mount Olympus.
4. Speak with Your Hands
Do like the Italians and speak with your hands. Your gestures should be graceful, like a symphony conductor, and each movement should end crisply. This tells the audience that you are in control. But don’t forget to show some passion. Jab at the air like Mussolini. This conveys the message that you have complete confidence in your own competence (and that you are thinking of invading Ethiopia.)
Here is what you shouldn’t do:
- stand with your hands at your sides as if you are a Marine recruit getting yelled at by your drill sergeant;
- put yours hands in front of your crotch, as if you’re naked and trying to hide your manly instrument;
- rock back and forth, like an Orthodox man at the Western Wall, or side to side, like you are on a boat you wish was not at sea;
- grab one wrist with the other hand, as if you are putting an imaginary friend in a headlock;
- point with your knuckle like a politician. If you have a point, go ahead and point with your finger.
5. Speak with Your Posture
Lean slightly forward to show the audience you care. Slouching to one side says you are mentally lazy and don’t mind that your legs are different lengths. Hunched shoulders indicate that you lack self esteem, and that every night before bed you stand in front of your mirror in your black knee socks and your boxers and wonder where it all went wrong.
6. Speak with Your Calm
Project calm and ease. When people get nervous, they tend to put their hands in their pockets and jingle their keys. Do not do this. Do not bring a tambourine in your backpack and bounce up and down. Don’t sew maracas onto your cuffs and do jumping jacks. Don’t rub your hands together like a silent movie villain, or tent your fingers like Montgomery Burns from The Simpsons. Don’t stroke your chin or beard. Don’t twerk, dab or Tebow. Don’t fidget.