You’ve written the perfect Best Man speech, spent ages perfecting your punchlines, got the timing spot on and even remembered to mention the bride.
It’s going to be the greatest Best man speech ever.
But wait. There’s one thing most Best Men forget and it’s the difference between success and disaster. Fortunately though, it’s also one of the easiest things to speak.
What makes a speech matter?
Think of a famous historical speech for a moment… Any historical speech. I’ll wait…
Many of you will have thought of Martin Luther Kings, “I have a dream” speech. Or maybe Churchill’s “fight on the beaches” speech, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, or even Mikey’s speech from the Goonies.
It doesn’t matter. All great speeches have one thing in common, one thing that elevates them from a regular speech to something will be remembered. It’s not the words that are used, or the way they are said. It’s not the skill of the speaker, the cadence of the words or even the very message you’re trying to get across.
It’s the contract between the speaker and the audience that matters.
Get that right, and everything else follows.
The Best Man’s Contract
Being invited to speak at a wedding is a big deal. It is the Bride and Groom’s way of saying, “I care about you, and I want to listen to what you have to say.”
That’s their part of the contract. But you have a part in it too. And this is where so many Best man get it wrong.
Most people when they write their speech think of it like this – “This is important to me, and I want to tell you why.”
With this in mind, they write speeches that are focused on themselves, telling stories they think will get the biggest laughs, recalling the most embarrassing moments for the groom, listing his worst faults, and inevitably, making the groom want to punch them somewhere around the 3rd minute.
The difference between a terrible best man speech and a great man is to change just two words- ”You are important to me. And I want to tell you why.”
Hang on. Are things about to get soppy?
I know, I know… this sounds like I’m asking you to break into tears and declare your undying love to the groom. But bear with me.
Declaring your undying love for the groom isn’t what I’m suggesting. That can only end one of two ways, neither of which will particulary endear you to the bride’s family.
But “You are important to me. And I want to tell you why.” is the foundation of all great speeches.
When Dr King spoke at the Lincoln Memorial he didn’t talk about how great the movement was. Instead he shared one constant message, “You matter. You are equal. You can create change.”
When Churchill talked about fighting on the beaches he wasn’t trying to make people think he was a great leader. He was saying over and over, “You, the British people, are strong. You are resilient. You will face hard times but you will get over them. And I know that you will continue to fight.”
And when Mikey told the Goonies “it’s our time, our time, down here,” he wasn’t saying he thought they were cowards for not wanting to go on. He was saying, “You matter. We matter. We are important. We need to do this for us.”
None of these speeches are wet or soppy. But they are emotional. Their is emotion behind every word. And it is the emotion that gives the words power. It is the emotion that burns the words into people’s minds. And It is the emotion that people will remember long after the words are gone.
What does this mean for your Best Man’s speech?
So am I saying you should write an epic poem about your bromance? Of course not; bromance poems are terrible.
But you do have to remember that this speech is not about you. It’s not your big day, it’s the groom’s. And he’s important to you. Use your speech to tell him, and everyone else, why.
When you slag him off, remember that’s he’s your best mate. When you list his flaws remember they’re part of the reason you like him. When you talk about the bride remember just how how happy she makes him.
And don’t even dare to raise that final toast unless you have found someway, even just one word, in one line, to tell the groom, and everyone else, exactly what he means to you.
Make him feel stupid, clumsy, selfish, vain, ridiculous and like the most important person in the room. If you can’t do that no-one can.
Remember: Every great speech says the same thing: “You are important to me and I want to tell you why.“
Test every word of your speech against this standard. It’s part of your speech contract and you owe it to the groom. I guarantee you, if you get this right, you will not only have everyone laughing at your jokes, but you will have them wiping away tears of joy too.
And it’s that which makes a speech matter. It that which makes people remember what you had to say. And it’s that which gets you all the free drinks at the reception.
Of course, when the speech is over, and your part of the contract is fulfilled, you can go back to treating him like the knobhead he really is.