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Speaking at special occasions

Need help with preparing a for special event?...

Singing at a wedding

Janet singing at a wedding.

If you are preparing a speech for a private function and are not experienced in facing an audience, this can be very daunting. Whether you are preparing a wedding speech or needing to speak at a funeral, the emotion of the occasion can be overwhelming. There is nothing more reassuring than being thoroughly prepared. In her career as a singer, Janet is frequently asked to sing at weddings and sadly funerals. Ask her to help prepare your speech and then deliver it with confidence.



  • Have water handy. Speaking over distance, even with a microphone, coupled with nerves leaves your mouth dry
  • Before you speak, take slow, low breaths, You may not wish to, but it will make a difference, by releasing your larynx and opening up your throat. Your voice will be lower and freer and you will have given yourself some much needed extra time
  • Make a note of how constricted (tight) your throat feels on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the most) and try and get it under 4
  • Prepare your speech so you just have reminders of what you want to say, not every word, and put them on small cards but in big print. This way you will be much more natural
  • Keep your eye level up, look above guests' heads if looking directly at them is too awful! Slow speech down and really focus on the first sentences which will give you time to settle


Possibly the worst thing one is ever asked to do is to talk publicly at a funeral or memorial service. Not only do you have the usual nerves but also your grief and that of those around you which compounds the stress on your voice. Below are some helpful hints on that moment when you have to deliver. Janet has had to sing at several funerals and memorials, so knows what it takes to get through the moment.

  • Know that you are going to feel dreadful. It may sound like an obvious thing, but allow yourself to be prepared for that.
  • Being asked to speak at a funeral is a privilege. It is an honour to be asked to give your impressions of the person but it will take a lot of time to prepare. Give yourself as much time as possible because in bringing back happy memories, you will grieve too.
  • Strange though it sounds, delivering your "speech" needs the same commitment as any other public speaking event and it will serve you well to prepare for it as for any other presentation.
  • Leading up to the day you need to practise your speech and preferably in front of somebody, who may well get upset. This is good practice.
  • On the day, you will face many grieving people and this will upset you. You may well have to listen to others speaking and feel distressed. Try not to really listen to the speech before the one you have to give. Concentrate on other things you have to do, make a list of the jobs which need doing - do anything to avoid getting drawn into the previous speech. You can grieve after your own contribution. Mutter under your breath if you have to, but do not listen!
  • As you stand in front of people, know that you will momentarily become the focus of their pain and they are unlikely to be able to control this. Take your time and breathe deliberately long, slow breaths before you start and envisage yourself as a taller, wider, stronger person. Have a role model in mind if that helps. Feel that you can touch the walls of the building with every part of you, grow internally to make yourself larger and more powerful.
  • If at any point during your talk you feel your throat constrict, get to the end of a sentence and stop to take in more air. Concentrate on that feeling of expansion and focus it on your throat. Feel the air arrive at the back of your throat several times before continuing.
  • Know that people will be crying in front of you. The first time you encounter this is shocking to your system, be prepared for it.
  • Your speech can have some lighter moments in it. In a strange way, you are celebrating the life of the deceased and happy memories are how the best of the person lives on. Use this occasion to recount funny moments and touching ones if you feel confident about not breaking down.
  • There is no shame in showing your difficulty in speaking, but you will best honour the occasions by thinking of this as another speech to be made in a practical way.
  • Be prepared to cry after you have sat down. The strain of "performing" will take its toll and you may well find yourself shaking. Also bizarrely, you may almost feel ecstatic - this is the endorphins of performance kicking in, so just go with the flow of that.
  • Above all, take your time and look up. Grief naturally means we are in a depressed state and our body does its best to preserve energy, so it will close down and your posture will show this, your eyes will be lowered - be counter intuitive, If you feel yourself slumping, deliberately sit or stand up and open your body.
  • View the process of the speech making on the day as a mechanical process and get into a very methodical frame of mind.