The Social Speech – A Guide

The Social Speech – A Guide

Been asked to ‘say a few words’ about someone?  It might be at a wedding, birthday or a leaving do for a colleague.  The stakes are quite high because if  the speech  misses the mark you can upset the bride, her mother, your boss, many of your friends or whoever else is in your audience.

Disasters can be avoided by following a few simple steps:

  • Just Be Nice   Cut out anything nasty or edgy.  It is all too easy to lose the room like the friend who started the speech at his friend’s birthday party on speculating what it would be like speaking at his funeral.

The audience gasped at the thought and the speaker tried to make out he was ‘just kidding’ but it was too late.  Once the toothpaste is out of the tube the die is cast – how about that for mixing metaphors?

Ten years on the guests at a friend’s wedding still remark on the sexual innuendo the Best Man made in his attempt at being funny.


  • Pitch it at the Key People   In a wedding it is the bride and groom and their families, but whatever the occasion  it is make sure that the main participants feel that you have delivered something that is meaningful, sincere and that you have spent enough time summarising your thoughts.

There might be some special guests who could get a mention.  Some comments directed that them will create a good atmosphere and show that you have done your research.

‘Let’s have a round of applause for the McDonald family who have come all the way from…’

‘Best wishes to Tricia here who has a birthday tomorrow’


  • Planning – Start with more material than you need but only use the best bits

I like sketching ideas out until a sheet of paper is full and then I go for a walk and work out the three main points I will focus on. People like three main points – faith hope and charity is one of my favourites.

  • Be Sincere    Audiences can spot a phony from a mile away.  If you clearly mean what you say you will win the audience over.


  • Stick to Time   I can’t remember any social speech that was too short.  Dozens of them were far too long and upset the audience and possibly the catering staff who could see a perfectly cooked meal turning into inedible mush.

Tips to combat nerves

Write the speech on paper and use a wide margin to write some key words.   Carry some small cards with the key words in your palm.

It is good to learn the speech but to have text to hand there to reassure yourself if you need to get back on track.

Learn the speech and talk it over with a friend or make a video recording – or do both.

Ask some friends to lead the laughing at the witty bits and the thunderous applause at the end.

If all else fails…. call me on 07578 101579 and I will see if I can help draft an outline and write the first draft.