Your Best Man Boot Camp: How To Nail The Speech
Chris is worried. Really worried. Not worried in a ‘Will they have any egg and cress on wholewheat left by the time I get out for my lunch break?’ way. But a knee trembling, spine concertina-ing, sweat inducing, brow furrowing form of what looks like all out fear.
He’s not attached to the end of a bungee rope. He’s not sitting on death row. He’s not even standing close to Dapper Laughs. He’s in a small room in a members club in West London, well furnished with exotic liqueurs, overstuffed Chesterfields and a small group of mostly 30-something men and women who are willing him to succeed.
“It might be ok to talk now,” he whispers to me. “But what happens when it’s the big day?”
Chris isn’t getting married. But he is the best man. And, in a tradition that is pure horror to the emotionally repressed core of the average British male, he is, of course, expected to make a funny, concise and affectionate speech at his friend Tony’s wedding early next year.
“I’ve never done public speaking before in my life,” Chris tells me as an assortment of equally worried looking men (and women) arrive at one of the very first Best Man Boot Camp workshops.
“But I do remember going to a wedding once and the best man gave a speech that was so bad he was actually heckled. He tried to get the whole room to sing a rugby song to the groom. But nobody knew the words and it ended up with people booing and the microphone being taken away from him by the bride’s father.”
The brainchild of former television director and travel writer Robyn Bayley, the Best Man Boot Camp is a place for prospective best men (and women – the amount of weddings where a bridesmaid is expected to talk has increased hugely in the UK over the last five years) to gain the confidence required to speak at a wedding and, more importantly, to create a speech which isn’t toe curlingly embarrassing
It all began for Robyn when he helped out a friend on a best man’s speech, when said friend came to him the night before the wedding in a blind panic.
Honing his techniques, Robyn asks the group to write down five words that describe their friend who is getting married. Then, breaking up into small groups, we talk to each other about our friend and jot down the things we like most about each other’s anecdotes and stories.
Slowly, over the course of barely 90 minutes, we find that we’re able to piece together something which isn’t just bad jokes pulled off the internet.
Told that we have to read out a two minute speech at the end of the night, Chris, who I thought might actually explode with nerves, seems strangely serene.
“It’s about not trying too hard I think”, he says. “I feel quite confident already that I can do something that isn’t going to embarrass everybody. I’ve been in such a knot of fear about doing this as I thought I had to be as funny as Ricky Gervais. I don’t. I think I’m just going to tell the truth.”
Gently mocking but always with a genuine endearment, the speeches were genuinely all of an outstanding quality. The best line of the night came from Seth who said, of his friend Joel:
“I always thought that Joel was the coolest kid in our school. He had the best trainers and the best attitude. I now realise that, considering his present job, that of a chartered accountant, that I didn’t have anything to be worried about in the cool stakes at all.”
The sense of an impending disaster averted is written on the faces of everyone as we disperse at the end of the two hours. For Robyn, that short time frame is all that’s needed to put best men at their ease.
“Everyone has the material inside them,” he says. “It’s just that they don’t quite know how to get it out. It’s not about trying to be intentionally funny. It’s about being truthful. Do that, and the funny stuff will always come out.”
Here’s five things you need to know to write a good speech:
1. Brevity! Nobody ever leaves a wedding saying the speeches weren’t long enough. Aim for seven minutes max in length
2. Don’t try and deliberately be funny. All the best moments will come from your just telling stories of your memories of your time with your friend the groom
3. Don’t be afraid to mock. But be aware that ‘in jokes’ that you find funny won’t always be understood by the rest of the room
4. Relax! You’re never going to be in a room where more people are on your side and want you to succeed. This isn’t a stand up comedy gig
5. Don’t drink beforehand for ‘Dutch courage’. Try and persuade the groom to let you give your speech as early as possible. Then you can enjoy the happy aftermath and start drinking!
Check out our best man’s speech template here if you’re really struggling.
For more info go to weddingspeechguru.co.uk.