Normally I craft words that other people speak or print. Recently, I have started speaking more frequently myself and a long time ago I was in the National Public Speaking Senior School finals and I have years of experience as a public speaking coach training other people to communicate, present and speak. But it is very seldom MY gig.
But this week I am on the spot. I have an unmissable deadline. I have a speech to write and finish. And I have to deliver it. And it needs to be good. At the very least.
For some strange reason Matthew Elliott of TPA, No2AV and Business for Britain fame asked me to be his Best Man. So here I am in The United Club Lounge in Heathrow Terminal 2, en route to Washington, thinking I had better focus on the plane and get this thing done. After all, as Matthew’s brother John unhelpfully pointed out: “If you were a carpenter and gave a crap speech it would be ok. But you aren’t!” This hasn’t been helped by “friends” like John O’Connell who is a Director at the TPA and one of the few totally likeable people in Westminster, until now, that is. Who said: “Congratulations on being Best Man. Speech better be good!”
Plus the the venue is Mount Vernon. George Washington’s family estate. No pressure.
It is a huge honour to be chosen as Best Man. The speech is officially to the whole crowd but actually the only audience I care about is Sarah and Matthew.
But I would be lying if I wasn’t viewing this speech with some trepidation. The prospect of giving this speech has hung over me for months. I guess that’s because it’s important to me. I can stand up and give an unimportant speech now. I can give speeches about things I know and believe in with a few minutes notice. But a Best Man’s speech is expected to be funny, personal and emotional. Authentic and all that. Plus the audience is full of people who speak far more often than I do.
But the speech is not about me. Not about impressing anyone. Not about anything or anyone except Matthew and Sarah. Saying the things he secretly would like me to say and avoiding ALL the things she has forbidden me from saying. There is a balancing act for you, if ever there was one!
Luckily, I am staying in Washington with my friend and colleague, speaker coach Denise Graveline, who will be critiquing my content and delivery. Once I finish writing the damn thing! I would love to say that if my speech bombs, it is her fault. But the truth is, when you stand up and give a speech you are alone. Your credit or your shame. These things can’t be delegated. I am glad I have a speaker coach though! 🙂