I'm nervous. I'm stupid-nervous. In five days, I have to give a speech, and I HATE giving speeches and I'm BAD at it. See, it really only occurred to me on Saturday that, as my friend Madeline's Maid of Honor, I'm supposed to give a toast at her wedding this weekend. Is there ANYTHING WORSE than listening to a bad wedding speech? I argue that there is not.
At my wedding, my sister Padrin gave the most epic MOH speech that has ever been delivered. It had all the elements of a good speech: the story about Geo and me, some tips for the future and a couple funny jabs...ALL SET TO A SONG. It was delicious and one of my favorite moments from the wedding. It was Padrin's speech that made me realize that a MOH toast can make or break the mood.
The only other time I've given a wedding toast was when I was 21 and my sister Prinna's MOH. I was half-drunk and fully nervous. I remember a blur of activity, then standing up, then sitting down. I don't remember anything that happened while I was publicly speaking. It was only when I sat down that Padrin nudged me and said "You didn't say a toast! You just told a story!" So I had to stand back up and hold my empty champagne glass in the air and say "OH YEAH! Toast! I mean, cheers!" or something to that effect.
So the panic is really setting in for Madeline's wedding. I KNOW I'm not a good public speaker. I could WRITE a great speech and then have someone else deliver it and probably come home a hero. But even reading a word-for-word dictation of something I've written is too much for me to handle. If you are not a nervous public speaker, allow me to explain what happens:
First, there is massive anxiety about the logistics of even getting up in front of an audience. Will the microphone be handed to me, or do I need to find one? Will it squeal when I talk into it? How will people know to look at me? Should I wave my hands? Will waving my hands make me look like a lunatic? Note to self: Probably do NOT wave hands.
Then the first words come out: They are shaky and uneven and either too loud or too soft. In a split second, I'm looking into eyeballs of people who I'm SURE are judging me. They feel bad for me or think I'm boring or expecting something much better than I have to offer. Wait, what was I even saying into the microphone?
OMG, is that really MY voice? It sounds so nasal and obnoxious. Stop listening to your voice and focus on the words that I am, undoubtedly, delivering with monotony. Is that person asleep back there?
Okay, focus on the words. Try to lighten up. It's just a speech to a bunch of people. What's the worst that could happen? Holy crap, did I just swear? I can't even tell. I'm not longer in my body. I'm somewhere very far away where I'm wearing sweatpants and laying on a couch. No! Did I just say that out loud?
Yes, alright, we're in the homestretch. It's my last note card. Try to smile...it's almost over. Ah! Is there something in my teeth? What's that random pain in my left pinky toe? Am I having a stroke? Can everyone see how much I'm sweating? They can. They can all see it. I'm dripping onto the note card. Is that "love" or "liver"? Black. I can't see anything and I can't help but wonder what will happen if I faint. Will someone catch me? Will everyone think I'm a drama queen? Will I get a concussion that will turn me into a serial killer?
Wait, what was I saying?
Oh yeah, don't forget the TOAST part. When it's all done, remember to say "cheers" or something. Don't just sit down. Don't just sit down.
Great, now I'm standing up like a dummy while everyone expects me to say more. Quick, make a very uncomfortable joke, maybe it's a little offensive, and sit down. The worst is over. Until the wedding video comes out.
So, basically, I've got my work cut out for me. I've got everything else ready (the dress, the jewelry, the shoes, the confidence to showcase my gigantor arms in public) but this speech is going to take some more work. I better get to it.
If you have any ACTUAL tips for how to not be a nightmare while public speaking, please share in the comments! I need all the help I can get!