All Best Man speeches have to be funny. Right? Wrong! By all means go for it and bring the house down - but only if you're naturally funny, nobody wants to end up on YouTube or Facebook in the "Least funny Best Man" category!
Two things to remember when preparing a speech are that it should be about the Bride and Groom and delivered in the most appropriate style. So trying to be funny when you don't feel that comedy is your forte will be a disaster and trying to act like Mr Charisma when it doesn't sit well with you just won't work.
Most importantly: be yourself. You have to feel relaxed and you certainly won't be relaxed if you're saying things that feel unnatural or trying to be someone you're not. Just say it like you mean it and you'll probably be home and dry.
Here are my ten top tips for giving a Best Man's speech:
1. Make it your own.
Tom Fletcher from McFly started by saying how much he hated making speeches so he played to his strengths and wrote a song instead. He 'sang' his thanks to his Bride, ushers and bridesmaids: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27WufdasQYs)
Even if you don't feel you have a talent for singing, writing poetry, tap dancing or playing the spoons, try to make it your own. Above all, make it personal - something only you could have said or done.
For example, take a look at Bill Nighy's speech ("I've only loved three men in my life...") from Richard Curtis' film ABOUT TIME. It's pitch perfect - funny, unusual and totally genuine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTvTLGkWYMU
2. Start well.
We've all heard long rambling speeches that seem to have no start, middle or end. So in preparation for your speech, write down all the things that you'd like to say: stories and anecdotes about the couple, your thoughts and wishes etc. Then stand back and decide what your most interesting thought or story is and start your speech with that. You'll get the audience on your side straight away, which will also make you relax.
Here are two classic ways of grabbing attention right from the start:
(i) TELL THEM SOMETHING PERSONAL:
"[The Groom] is the most [generous/kind/loving] person I have ever met. And I'm going to tell you why."
(ii) START IN THE MIDDLE OF A STORY
"Sixteen years ago, [The Groom], was on holiday in the South of France with three friends when something odd happened ..."
3. Use a prop.
For example, read from the Groom's old school report or hold up his iPod and read out some 'guilty pleasures' from his track list. Using a prop can work well but if your speech relies on a prop then don't forget to bring it with you! Big props require a lot of effort; so ask yourself if your joke really is worth lugging a double bass around all day for!
Ideally all ages, from the grandparents through to young children, will find your speech funny - and not be offended. Tempting though it is to tell jokes, remember that you are not there to do a stand up routine, but to make the Bride and Groom's day special. Don't borrow jokes from the internet - the audience will spot it a mile off and, if you do tell jokes, make sure they are relevant - everything in your speech must be about the Happy Couple.
I generally advise speaking for no longer than 5 minutes. If you're really confident you could speak for up to ten minutes - but it must be well structured and divided into sections to work well.
Once you've planned your speech, time yourself practicing it aloud. Change any words or phrases that you find hard to say. You don't want to stumble over a difficult word when an easier one is out there.
7. Don't rush.
When you stand up to speak, wait two or three seconds before speaking. This will give you time to compose yourself and will make you look more confident.
8. Deliver your feedlines clearly.
As all good comedians know, if your story relies on a punchline, you must to set it up with a clear feedline. So if, for example, your punchline was: "And so if [Groom] ever needs help with a mortgage application, he'll know who to call!" - you'll only get a laugh if you've set up earlier in the story that his father-in-law was a Bank Manager. The audience would need to have heard the words BANK MANAGER very clearly. Never mumble your feedlines.
9. End well.
You want to end really well, so try coming back to the idea that you started with. Using the examples above, you could try:
(i) "So that's why [The Groom] is the most [generous/kind/loving] person I have ever met."
(ii) "So the next time you go on holiday to the South of France with three friends, you might end up finding a fiancée!"
10. Be yourself.
The best advice of all that I can give is simply to be yourself. Avoid using formal words that you wouldn't usually use - they will make you feel and sound stiff. Use your own voice. Don't be tempted to put on your 'poshest/formal' voice! Be conversational. Be real. Be yourself.
Remember that this day is not about you or your speech; it should all be about the Happy Couple. You don't have to be the best speaker in the world, just make it all about them and you'll enjoy it so much more.
I wish you the very best of luck with your speech and hope you have a great day!
ROBIN KERMODE is author of SPEAK SO YOUR AUDIENCE WILL LISTEN - 7 steps to Confident and Successful Public Speaking - http://zone2.co.uk/book/