Markus Spiske

Do you find Christmas parties heaven or hell? That might depend on whether you have to give a speech. You might be asked to give an award or need to respond if you receive one. It might be your job to thank the organiser or to acknowledge the efforts of your team over the last year. If you find public speaking uncomfortable here are few hints to help you avoid overwhelm.

1. Remember to enjoy it

You will probably be with colleagues or friends who are 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. Yet, people do enjoy a story, particularly a true story; try to find something relevant from the year. Try to select a story, with a little humour that you can tell in under two minutes. Even if you don’t end up giving that speech 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’re not a seasoned joke teller then leave the jokes to the crackers and just be sincere.  If you trust your joke telling skills remember to keep it relevant and appropriate to 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; 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. Leave the alcohol until after you sit back down. 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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