This weekend’s news headlines were dominated by Pippa Middleton’s and James Matthews' wedding. Everything was coming up roses for the happy couple, except for the best man speech, which apparently gave new meaning to the term “royal flop.” Let’s take a closer look at some of the rules that James’ best man broke when making his toast:
He crossed the line, on multiple occasions. James’ best man Justin Johannsen is said to have made a number of off-color remarks during his speech, including crude punchlines about sex, Pippa’s bottom and a lewd gag about the couple’s honeymoon. Of course, he’s not the first best man to try to infuse humor into his speech. Unfortunately for him, his jokes came off as quite offensive. My rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing the information with your own grandmother (or in this case, the Queen of England!), it’s best to leave it unsaid altogether.
He should have done a test run. If Justin had practiced his speech in front of an objective audience in advance of the big day, I think it’s safe to say that some of the material he chose to use would have been sent to the chopping block. It’s not that best men have ill intentions when making their speeches, but oftentimes they don’t spend ample time preparing and thinking about how their material will resonate with all of the guests. That is why writing the speech well in advance and carving out the time to rehearse and solicit feedback is so important.
He exceeded his time limit. It was reported that Justin’s speech was 10 minutes long, which is way too long for a speech. My rule of thumb is no more than five minutes. The trick is to leave the audience wanting more, not less. And if the news coverage was any indication, the guests at this wedding definitely wanted to hear LESS than what was offered.
He took the microphone too late in the night. Justin was said to have stepped up to the microphone at 11:30 PM after a five-course dinner. By this point in the evening, guests have probably overeaten and in many instances, had too much to drink. I advise my clients to speak when they are feeling fresh—and that’s way before the dessert course is served. Most speakers are tempted to have a drink or two beforehand to calm their nerves, but more times than not, this can lead to disaster. It’s best to hold off on the alcohol until after you’ve made your speech, another reason to take center stage at the beginning of the evening.
Nobody wants to deliver a speech that causes more cringes than smiles, especially in front of royalty! I’m sure Justin had the best of intentions, but unfortunately his speech hit too many wrong notes. Next time, maybe he’ll follow some of these rules and deliver a speech to remember…for the right reasons.