Case Study #3: The Wedding Speech


Samantha has agreed to speak at her cousin's wedding reception as the maid of honor. She is a bit nervous. She has no problem being the life of the party at family gatherings – she's known as a bawdy cut-up. But speaking in front of strangers feels different, more scary. Also, she's not sure that her sense of humor is sophisticated enough for a fancy wedding. And she needs a little help organizing her thoughts.

In the assessment, it becomes immediately clear that Samantha has a lot to say, and a lot of love for cousin. She does have a natural gift for gab, even if she feels shy about it with strangers. We notice, however, that when she “speaks” her speech, she immediately gets more wooden and less interesting than when she was just “speaking” to the instructor.

What Samantha needs is confidence. We are going to use our safe space to have Samantha feel what it's like to take that fun-loving joker she's used to being around her family and making it big enough for a group of 200 friends and relatives.

Session One: 

“Think about the Audience”

In order to help Samantha get over her nervousness, we're going to talk a little bit about who the audience is and what their expectations are. We will also try some ways to start the speech, grabbing the audience's attention from the get go.

“Think about Your Cousin”

This is a brainstorming session to help Samantha generate material. We start with listing words to describe the cousin, then elaborating those choices with short descriptions. Then Samantha will have to relate an experience she's had with her cousin that displays this quality she's named.

Session Two:

Chunking - Theme”

The speech should hang together around a central theme that relates to her cousin and this joyous celebration. We might find the theme in the first session's work in describing the cousin, or we might look for other theme. This will help us organize the material.

Workout - Develop Your Stories”

Go back to the experiences from the first session and pick a few stories to develop. We'll then workshop each one, adding imagery, looking for word economy, and keeping Samantha's naturally conversational tone while making her style big enough for a large audience.


Session Three:

Structure: Arranging the Pieces”

According to the theme we've picked, we'll arrange our speech into a sequence and make sure we have good transitions.

“Going Too Far”

Since Samantha is worried about being inappropriate, let's work on sections of her speech and deliberately go too big or too bawdy and see what that feels like. We may find that some of those choices actually work pretty well.


Session Four:

“Putting It All Together”

This will be a work-through of the speech with side-coaching and stops & starts.


In our last phase, we run the speech without stops several times, giving notes in between runs. Samantha can invite an audience for her last run, if she likes.