After high school speech and debate class, many of us drop any need to give a speech again in our lives. That is until our bestie gets married. We’re sure you feel the bride-to-be deserves the best maid-of-other speech ever. We’re here to help.

Maybe you’re a speech novice? Or, perhaps the idea of standing up at a wedding with a microphone gives you immense anxiety? It’s time we hone your wedding speechwriting skills. With ideas and examples, tips & tricks, Jackie Graybill – a member of Toastmasters International – is here to calm any nerves about speech giving…

As the Maid-of-Honor at a wedding, you have a great opportunity to celebrate your friend. Share stories that can be humorous or poignant, from childhood through to life today. As you prepare it is always a good idea to contact family members and friends, including the bridesmaids, to collect their anecdotes and memories. That way you’ll have a range of stories and be able to keep your audience of all ages engaged and entertained. You may also inspire them to keep reminiscing long after you finish speaking.

How can you practice and prepare for this important speech? Let me share some tips to help you so you give your best to the wedding audience.

Practice storytelling with the children in your life.

If you have children in your life, you’re aware that they adore being told stories, and they are an eager and forgiving audience. This is the perfect atmosphere to test various storytelling techniques as you build your skills, as you likely won’t feel judged by your small listeners and will be less inhibited. As long as the storytelling is age-appropriate, this will be a win-win for everyone involved in the process.

The Five Senses

Our five senses have a powerful effect on our human experiences and when any of them are evoked, this can trigger audience members in powerful ways. To practice this skill, take someone on a sensory walk. This could be a description of choosing a beautiful bouquet of flowers, an adventure holiday you went on with your friend or anything that includes multiple of the five senses. Just be careful with this powerful story element, as there are some things you may not want to bring up with your listeners (keep bad smells out of this as you don’t want to make people feel queasy).

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Use comparisons.

Using metaphors and similes bring interest and humour to your storytelling. For humorous examples, look at the work of comedian Jim Gaffigan. Especially, the time a bear looked at him and, as he put it, “I was sunburned so I probably looked like a giant land salmon.”

Additionally, check out the book, ‘Metaphors Be With You’, by Dr. Mardy Grothe, for wonderful examples to incorporate into your stories.

Character dialogue.

Instead of just telling us what your characters have said, become those characters as they have a dialogue with each other. You can utilise the spatial physicality of characters as they talk with each other by shifting slightly where you stand and where you are looking.

Using inner voices.

Adding the inner voices of characters is a wonderful way to bring your story to life. And you are not required to stick to living characters. As an example, during a recent speech on resilience, I embodied a bowl in a short story that illustrated the Japanese concept of kintsugi. Maybe the wedding cake has a tale to tell!

Practice retelling scenes from television episodes or films.

Not only will this help to develop your dialogue skills, but as you retell memorable scenes from the screen. You will also start to pick up storytelling techniques. You’ll also learn what elements are best to include and which are unnecessary and don’t drive the action forward, thus slowing down the pace.

Remember to pause.

When speaking, a second can feel like ten, and ten seconds can feel like a minute. Accordingly, pausing can feel unnatural and uncomfortable. But, it can also be a welcome gift to your audience, as it gives them time to absorb what you have said. Pauses can also be used to emphasise phrases or words in a powerful way. And they give time for your audience to tap into the emotion you are conveying.

The PIXAR Formula

PIXAR has a story formula for their films. It works as follows:

Once upon a time
Every day
But one day
Because of that
Because of that (add additional “because of that”s as necessary)
Until finally
Ever since then

Try putting your stories into this shape and then practice them. You can find out more about this here: The PIXAR Storytelling Formula.

Shorter is sexier: leave them wanting more.

Do your best to cut out any non-pertinent details that don’t set up your story or drive the action forward. If you feel like you might be adding too much detail to a specific aspect of your story, you probably are.

Bank your stories.

Whenever you are engaged in a conversation and find yourself recalling and sharing a story, add it to your story bank list. This will prove to be a treasure trove when you are preparing for a speech, whether for a wedding, a wedding shower or somewhere else. Just visit your story bank (I keep mine in my notes app on my phone) and match a point with a story that illustrates it. Practice telling these stories in everyday conversation. And every time you tell it, that story’s impact will become stronger as you adjust the elements in it for maximum impact.

Storying telling is enjoyable so I encourage you to practice in your daily life. Take the opportunity to make stories from little incidents that occur. That way you will be primed and ready to put together your Maid of Honor speech, deliver a memorable speech that everyone will enjoy, and do your friend proud.

Need more speechwriting tips? Here’s our ultimate guide to writing vows & a great guide to writing a groom’s speech, too!

Jackie Graybill is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org.