I was lucky enough to exhibit at the Sydney Wedding Expo at Sydney Showgrounds, Homebush last month and I loved meeting everyone face to face and getting the word out that help is available for your wedding speech.

The thing that came to me over and over again was just how nervous everyone is about speaking at the wedding. In actual fact, this should come as no surprise – in 2016 public speaking was again voted America’s second greatest personal fear – it still outranks death as a fear with 25.9% of those surveyed having a fear of public speaking vs 19% that fear their own death.

So I started to think about how I can help more people overcome their fears and deliver a great speech at the wedding. For many of you, this will be the first time you will speak publicly since high school, and sometimes in front of hundreds of people. So how can we survive this so you don’t ruin the night, the day and the week leading up to the event stressing about a speech? Here are my top tips:

To the bride and groom – think about who you want to speak

A lot of people have little choice as to whether they are speaking at the wedding – a best man has to, a father of the bride has to, the groom has to… or do they? We don’t give out cows as dowries anymore, so who says the best man has to speak? I’d love couples to challenge this tradition a little bit more. If your best man is terrified of public speaking, why not ask one of the groomsmen to speak? It could be a win win – your best man gets to fulfil role of close support without having to address his fear of public speaking, while a groomsman with the flair gets to show off his skills. All the while you as a couple get an entertaining speech from someone that actually wants to be doing this. Wins all around I say!

Keep challenging traditions, ask your selected parties if they actually want to speak. There is no shame in not wanting to, and it won’t diminish their relationship with you, in fact, it might just help a lot of people out.

As a speaker, define your success

So if you can’t get out of it altogether, the next best thing you can do before you even write a word is define what a successful speech will be to you. For some, anything short of Tony Robbins and a life changing moment is failure. For others, a tiny slip of the tongue or a laugh that didn’t quite match the image in their head is paramount to disaster. But is that realistic for someone that hasn’t spoken publicly for a decade?

When thinking about your speech, think about what outcomes you will be ok with and how you will measure your success. Be realistic. It’s realistic to expect a few laughs and a round of applause at the end and a few positive comments afterwards. It’s often not realistic to expect a viral YouTube video, no slip ups, and free drinks all night after the tab closes ‘cos your speech was that awesome.

A great test I have is to drill down into your fear of failure. Is failure a failed joke? How would you know it failed? How do you measure a lacklustre response? Keep asking yourself questions until you can get to a measurable outcome, then write it down.

Understand what you want to achieve, be kind to yourself and you’ll find the idea of failure is actually pretty hard to measure, which means you really can achieve your goals.

Start early, get help

This isn’t (totally) a gratuitous plug for my services – you can totally do this speech thing on your own. Just start early. And by ‘start’ I don’t mean Googling one-liners that have been used over and over again. I mean start thinking about what you’d like to say, what stories you’d like to tell, your relationship with the bride and groom.

The longer you spend preparing on the content the better it will come together. Spend a few days just thinking about it all and jotting down notes before you try to smash out a whole speech in a single session – that rarely works. By all means, get some tips on structure, layout and content from the Google, but make sure it’s all your words and your heart that makes it to the page.

And yes, if you get stuck I can help you write it from scratch but even better, I can come in at the end to review your speech to make sure it flows and gets to the right point efficiently. That way, it’s all you – no cheating, promise.

Practice practice practice

Yeah, you knew this was coming, didn’t you?  Of course I’m going to tell you to practice! Having great content is only half the battle, the other half is presentation. And with first impressions made in the first seven seconds of your speech, everything about your body language counts – and you know what sells confidence? Actual confidence.

How do you get confidence? You stand up knowing you have spent a lot of time of this speech, you’ve run it past a few friends and family and listened and adopted their feedback, you refined, you read out loud, you practiced with a hair brush as the pretend microphone to make sure you hold it right. You even held off the drinks before you spoke. For the next five minutes – you got this.

This is how you get past the nerves – narrow down what you want to achieve, define success, define failure and then work your ass off.

And if you need some more tips on how to rehearse, check out my guide 5 Free tips on how to rehearse your wedding speech so you nail it on the day.