Pauses are essential for a good wedding speech. In fact, your silence can be more eloquent than you words.
Any time you speak in public, you have enemies. Your enemies are clichés, monotone delivery and above all, fear. Fear will take you out behind the barn and beat you senseless with a garden rake. You cannot let this happen.
Fear causes adrenaline to surge, which gives you a distorted sense of time. You feel like you are going too slowly, when in reality you words are tumbling out like coins from a broken vending machine.
You need to slow down—which means you need to employ silence.
If you can learn to use silence effectively, you’ll come across as more confident, and your speech will have more impact. Think of silence in your speech as blank space in a painting. If you cover every inch of the canvas, it becomes hard to see anything.
Not all pauses are equal. If you use the same pause between each sentence, you’ll come off as robotic. After 30 seconds of this, people will want to punch you in the head. After a minute, they actually will.
A true toast master has a whole repertoire of pauses, but you only need to master these five:
1. The Dave Chappelle Pause
This one is approximately a second and a half long, and its purpose is to allow the wedding guests to absorb whatever you just said. You’ll need this because people are much slower than you think; and they are full of wedding food; and they are probably pretty sloshed. The Chappelle Pause is achieved by hunching your shoulders a bit, and slowly moving your eyes from one side of the room to the other, smiling slyly.
2. The Woody Allen Pause
Nothing is more charming in a wedding speech than self-deprecation. Make a joke which reveals how crazy and neurotic you are (which should make you unattractive, but somehow just contributes to your unlikely success with women). Smile ruefully, maybe stammer a bit and shake your head at the ridiculousness of it all. You audience will love you (until you marry your step-daughter and gross everyone out).
3. The Barack Obama Pause
This is a longer pause to signal that you are shifting topics. By pausing, you take control of the room, and your silence will do far more than your words to make people quiet down and listen.
This “moving on” pause is about 3 seconds long. Stop, lift up your chin a little so you are looking down your nose (but in a nonjudgemental way). If need be, throw in a few long “uhhms” to give people time to start missing you.
4. The Christopher Walken Pause
An excellent technique for regaining your audience’s flagging attention, this series of short, staccato pauses throws your listeners off balance, and should be employed with the rhythm of a beatnik playing the bongos. “I….am so glad I could…be here…tonight because I…usually don’t go out…except to buy groceries… or give blood.” If feasible, augment this technique with a 1970s leisure suit, slicked back hair, a pencil mustache, and manic darting eyes that hint at a sadness from long ago.
5. The Bill Clinton Pause
This pause creates the illusion of spontaneity. To execute it, bite your lip and look up, as if to say “Right now, at this very moment, I am having a sincere feeling, and I am asking God to help me think of the perfect words to express it.” This pause oozes empathy and charisma. It oversees the greatest reduction in the federal deficit in over 100 years. It almost makes everyone forget about the intern. Almost.
When giving a wedding speech, you need to get over your fear of silence. Pauses are powerful tools…
…which you need to embrace.