Why the speech just won’t go away

What have hand-to-hand combat, being able to cook and making a speech all got in common?

You would have thought that modern life would have rendered them all obsolete.

After all, we have weapons, we can buy pre-cooked meals and we don’t need to stand up holding a piece of paper in order to broadcast our thoughts.

So why deliver a speech? Why not have a Powerpoint presentation or show a pre-recorded video instead? The sound and lighting would be perfect, it would be edited, and they wouldn’t miss any lines. Much more efficient surely?

It’s all in the moment

Yet politicians, business people and, yes, wedding participants still feel that a speech is one of the best ways to communicate. So why is this?

Well, performing a martial art, cooking a meal or writing and delivering a speech are all, in some way, forms of theatre. There is the very real sense that, at any moment, it could all go horribly wrong. Each time you open your mouth, you are taking another step along a tightrope in front of an audience ready to greet your fall with suppressed laughs or stifled yawns.

Every instance of public speaking flirts with disaster. Just look at the British Prime Minister at the Conservative Party conference in 2017. If you stand up and deliver a speech, your audience respects you not just for what you are saying but for the mere fact you’re saying it.

The speech is dead, long live the speech!

So making a speech in front of all the wedding guests is something that, I believe, will never be superseded or subsumed into another form. It is an ancient rite that will endure. It’s both a tradition and a test of your mettle.

And the greatest way to ensure you end up on the glory not the gory side of the ledger is to prepare. Write, re-write, practise and re-write again. Be brutal and lose any lines you’re not sure of. Don’t busk it or you’ll bunk it.

And when you get plaudits – applause, laughs or tears – you’ll know why Hollywood actors sometimes forgo millions of dollars to perform on the stage. Because it’s live theatre and the immediate thrill of success is everything.

“Blessed are the speechmakers for they shall inherit the mirth.”

Good luck!

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