Markus Spiske

Christmas parties can be heaven or hell but either way a Christmas speech is often called for. Perhaps you are giving an award or even lucky enough to receive one; maybe you’ll be thanking someone for their contributions or you may want to acknowledge the efforts of people over the year.

Whatever the reason many of us find ourselves in the unfamiliar territory of ‘public speaking’. Many find it an comfortable place to be.  If you’re wondering how to cope with the impending “saying a few words” here’s a few tips on how to cope.

1. Remember to enjoy it

Most of these functions will be with colleagues and friends there to have a good time. They will be rooting for you and in a good mood, so enjoy the atmosphere and be happy that you are part of it.  At these events it’s likely that you will be much more concerned about your Christmas speech than your audience; most will be just happy it’s not them speaking. Take a breath, smile, stand up, speak up, and try not to stress – you can do this!

2. Keep your speech positive

Lots may have happened over the year but this isn’t the time to bring down the mood.  If you need to remember any departed do so with positive memories. Recognise those who have made contributions and aim to be as upbeat as possible.  This isn’t the time to deliver bad news, and not everything has to be mentioned.

3. Include a short story in your speech

People want to hear from you – but not to have you take over their whole evening. Franklin D. Roosevelt said “Be sincere, be brief, be seated” and that’s not bad advice. People do enjoy a story, particularly a true story; try to find something relevant from the year. If possible select a story that you can tell within no more than two minutes, and add a bit of humour. Even if you discover that your public speaking skills are not going to be needed after all you can still share it with your friends.

4. Be careful of jokes in your speech

It’s natural to want to tell a joke in your speech but not everyone can. If you know joke telling is not your forte then leave the jokes to the crackers and just say something sincere.  On the other hand, if you are a joke teller do think about your audience; you may know many of the guests but you may also have partners, older or younger family members or others who fall outside your usual group of friends. Be mindful of ‘in jokes’ or anything a bit risque that might fall flat in the present company; it may be that all your joke needs is a delicate tweak for the occasion.

5. Watch the drink and add water

It’s easy to find your wine glass filled up by willing volunteers with the best intents. Keep an eye on what’s happening and aim to have a glass of water for your main drink before your moment arrives.  Over the evening keep your water topped up, you may need it. When you speak nerves can dry your mouth, taking a moment to take a sip can provide a confident looking pause. Standing up to slur your words before landing back unceremoniously in your chair is not the impression you want to make, so leave the alcohol until after your Christmas speech when you sit back down to your applause. If possible get the speaking done early so you can relax for the rest of the evening.

I wish you all a happy Christmas and happy speaking

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