One of the most commonly overlooked aspects of wedding speech preparation is analyzing the audience. Professional speakers will tell you that they generally spend a good portion of their preparation time trying to understand who will be listening to them speak. The reason they do this is that having information about your audience is a valuable asset when you begin writing your speech. An audience analysis will tell you what to put in and what to leave out. Other factors related to the audience will give you an idea of how to effectively deliver your speech. In this chapter, we'll explore why audience information is so important and how that information can help you create an excellent speech.
Why Audience Information is Necessary for the Wedding Speech
First, let me eliminate one misconception you might have about your audience. Some wedding speakers falsely believe that their main audience is just the bride and groom. That's not the case. Your speech is actually being delivered to the entire wedding party and all of the wedding guests. You don't want to forget those other people because their impression of your speech could also influence its reception by the bride and groom.
For example, let's say you chose to include an adult joke in the speech because you know the groom would find it funny. You've forgotten that his mother and grandmother are also in the audience and didn't find it amusing at all, especially since many of their older friends were in attendance. Even though the groom may very well have loved your speech, he may not have liked the lecture he got from his mother because of it.
You want to prevent problems that from arising. For that reason, you need to keep your speech audience-centered which means that as you are planning and preparing your speech, you are keeping the audience at the forefront of your mind. It means that when you make decisions related to your speech, you do so by thinking about how the audience would react, not just what you would prefer or what you think the newly married couple would prefer.
Before you start throwing up your hands and saying the speech isn't worth all this trouble, let me just remind you that this is nothing different than what you do in daily conversations already. When you talk to friends or co-workers, you do so by taking into consideration their beliefs and feelings. Unless you were extremely insensitive, you wouldn't tell a friend who supports animal rights that you took a gun and killed a squirrel just for fun, for example. The reason is known as identification.
Identification is "a process in which speakers seek to create a bond with the audience by emphasizing common values, goals, and experiences." More simply put: when you are speaking to one or one hundred people you want to find some way of relating to them so that they'll be more receptive to your speech. It also means that you'll do your best not to say or do anything that would offend a large portion of your audience, unless your purpose is to shock them which is never a good idea in a wedding speech.
As I explained already, you use identification every day as you communicate with the various people in your life. The only difference is that you normally aren't even aware that you're doing it. When you are planning the wedding speech, however, you have to be aware of it and focus on it.
One last thing that you need to realize about audiences is that they are, by nature, egocentric. Egocentric simply means that they are focused on what concerns them most. Wedding Speeches bore them unless the content affects them directly.
I'm telling you this not to scare you with the idea that all of your audience is going to be bored by your speech but to encourage you to include everyone in your speech in some way. Wedding guests are typically divided up into three main groups: family members, friends, and co-workers. If you include a mention of these groups in your speech, then you are more likely to keep their attention. You might say for example, "Sherri and Kevin are blessed to be here in the presence of so many of their most treasured friends. I know I speak for them when I say we are thankful to have all of you here to help us celebrate this wonderful event."
The audience's egocentrism is also one reason why so many speakers resort to humor when it comes to wedding speeches. When you add jokes or tell funny stories about the bride and groom, the audience knows instinctively that you have put those elements into your speech for their benefit. You're trying to entertain them and, if your humor is appropriate and effective, they will respond in a positive manner to your attempts. Keep in mind, however, that humor is not something everyone can do.