Nervous about your speech? – Try shaving your head

You would be following in the footsteps of the great Greek orator Demosthenes (350BC) who was a nervous speaker and suffered with a stammer. Nevertheless, he was determined to overcome these problems and he believed in the value of practise (note the ‘s’ in the word signifying that it is a verb, meaning ‘action’).
He worked hard to cure his stammer and would rehearse his speeches with pebbles in his mouth. This didn’t have any beneficial effect so he ditched the idea – as did King George VI when trying to overcome his stammer problems.
Demosthenes realised that the only solution was to spend time practising until he got to the standard he was aiming for. He shaved one half of his head to force himself to stay out of sight and would spend two or three months indoors focussing on his task.
This intensive and repeated practise helped him overcome his nervous disposition and embarrassing stammer and made him one of the great Greek orators.
I don’t believe in the ‘pebbles in the mouth approach’ and I wouldn’t shave half my head (although you might think I have already done so) but I agree with Demosthenes (and others) that practise is the best, possibly only, route to success.

(Extract from my speaking guidance eBook ‘want to give them a good talking to?’ – see

“Most toastmasters are aged and formal”

I read this comment on a young toastmaster’s website and whilst it might be a sincere observation on his part, I suspect he was positioning himself as a young man offering a dynamic service. I speak as someone comparatively senior in years, but, like all my TM colleagues, pride myself in getting the balance of dynamism and formality exactly as my clients want it. I am ‘formal’ in the sense that I keep things moving and on track but I do so in an engaging and fun way (so my brides and grooms tell me). I will make suggestions but I don’t impose procedures and activities.
Your toastmaster (‘young’ or ‘old’) should work closely with you to plan your day and then do exactly what is right for you and for your event. Nothing more.

Forget about your ‘wedding speeches’!

After all, they make you nervous; they’re often boring and they usually go on too long. Sound familiar? It’s possible to have a wedding celebration without any speeches but I’ve never seen this happen; it would be unusual and guests would feel that something is missing. So my advice is to forget about doing ‘wedding speeches’ and think about ‘wedding toasts’ instead. Changing a single word about the activity gives a different perspective. A ‘speech’ sounds academic and formal; it creates expectations of professionalism, fluency and humour. I try to avoid the word ‘speech’. I’ll introduce people who are going to ‘say a few words’.

The father of the bride will thank people for coming, say how proud he is of his lovely daughter and welcome her partner into the family. He’ll typically propose a toast the happy couple.

The bridegroom (or bride) will say how lucky he / she is to have married such a wonderful person and thank wedding party members for all their support. He (or she) will perhaps give a few gifts and end with a toast to the families (or something similar).

The best man will often joke about the groom and tell a few amusing stories (in good taste!), read a few messages (in the old days, these would be ‘telegrams’) and finish with a toast to the couple.

I encourage you to look at my kindle book. Wedding speeches for the very nervous’ and you’ll see ideas and templates for all the usual speeches – sorry, ‘toasts’.