(Public Speaking Essentials for the Celebrant Part 1)

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You don’t have to make it loud but it must be clear! As a celebrant, whether you are conducting a funeral or officiating a marriage, at one or more stages of the event YOU are the primary speaker and the importance of what you have to say, and therefore what the congregation should be hearing, cannot be underestimated. So it stands to reason that a celebrant shouldn’t just know the right words to speak, but should be able to deliver them in an impactful way.

The art of public speaking comes naturally for some while many others struggle. Even if it does come naturally however, there is always more to learn, additional skills to acquire and practising to be done.

Here are 3 tips to get you started.

1. Project With Clarity

That doesn’t mean shouting. That just gets irritating. It does mean articulating well and raising your volume to level that is audible for people from front to back. You can improve this with a few tricks.

– rather than just practising your speech in your bedroom to a mirror, take a friend, head out to a busy area of town (shopping mall, food court, bar etc.) and practise your speech with them in that noisy environment.

– Practise speaking to people from further away than you normally would. You could even set up your phone to record you from 2 metres away, then 4 metres etc. Listen back and see how well you do at ensuring your volume and clarity is maintained at further distances.

– Breathe! Well duh. Controlling breath and making sure that you have plenty of it is the trick. Get fitter. Have you ever tried to talk after an exhausting bout of exercise? Try and shout after an all-out 200 metre sprint.

2. Destroy the Ums!

A few will slip in for sure. Ums and ahs. It’s natural. However, they can show lack of confidence and lack of professionalism. 2 ways to avoid the dreaded “ums and ahs” are to:

– Pause. Simple. When you are umming it is because you are verbalising in your mind. There’s nothing wrong with pausing to think so just do that without the gap filler. It’s also a chance to refill your lungs which ties into breathing well and enabling better projection.

– Know your material. If you are prepared and know your speech inside and out and back to front there will be less chance of moments where you are wondering “what should I say next?”

3. Vary Your Vocal Delivery 

Vary the delivery’s pace, pitch, and volume. Hands up who enjoys a monotone speaker? If you do it’s probably because you see an opportunity to nap. Monotone speakers are great in place of lullabies.
If you want to keep your audience awake however, practise alternating your speaking speed, the highs and lows of your vocal tone and, though we are generally aiming to speak loudly, looking for intense moments when your audience is silently hanging on every word, to speak softly.