Month: October 2011

How to Write a Killer Best Man Speech

Sooner or later in every man’s life, unless you are
immensely unpopular, you will get asked to perform best man duty. As much of a privilege as this is to be asked, it is a daunting task that will undoubtedly
cause untold panic, make you lose sleep, and ultimately test your friendship –
that is what the stag do is for right? But to most the thought of writing the
speech is the first thing that springs to mind and then delivering the speech
is enough to make a grown man fall to the floor, get into the foetal position
and wish he had never even bothered to challenge this guy to a game of conkers
20 years ago and put himself in this position in the first place.

Below I am going cover off a few key points that should help you put together a great speech, or at worst help you survive through a mediocre speech, I’m not a miracle worker and I can’t control what you write. But hopefully for anyone struggling to find inspiration this should give you a bit of guidance when you are starting out. To save you reading through everything you can skip to the following areas:

  • Make it Personal
  • Know Your Audience
  • Structure
  • Timing
  • Don’t Get Drunk
  • Compliments
  • Sincerity
  • Giving The Speech

My brother asked me to be his best man, he and his bride to be gave me 5 months in which to write my speech, and predictably I threw it together in the last week or so. Fortunately it went well, people laughed when they were meant to laugh, cried when they were meant to cry and I was treated to several pats on the back for the rest of the night. When I was looking for material to put in the speech I immediately turned to the inter web thinking that it would be easy to grab enough tips and tricks to put together a great speech, which is one of the reasons that I left it so long to do, that and sheer laziness, alas I found that the kind people of the internet were only going to let me into the secrets of a good best mans speech if I was willing to pay a subscription for entry into their site! The scoundrels! Then it struck me, as much as these generic tips and jokes would help me out they would most likely be of questionable quality and I think everyone suffers slightly when trying to deliver someone else’s jokes, so I grabbed my laptop and just started writing.

Make it Personal

This, I would suggest is the number one rule for a great speech. At the end of the day everyone is in that room for two people. The groom and the father of the groom will have already waxed lyrical about how great the bride is, so it is your responsibility to tell everyone about the groom, not to stand up and tell several jokes in succession that could be applied to any faceless groom in the land. It is your job essentially to tell those in the room that don’t know the groom all that well, a little something about him, whether that something is positive or negative is your call.

Know your Audience

Now, I think the story about the groom getting hammered and getting off with some girl called Steph who turned out to be a builder called Steve as funny as the next guy, however you may find it a wise move to temper your urge to tell every available story about the groom as not everyone in the room is going to enjoy the stories you tell. You need to avoid offending or upsetting the Bride (priority number one there guys), the Bride’s parents (they are probably paying for the dinner you just ate, the wine you are drinking and the suit you are wearing) and the oldies in the crowd. Grandma doesn’t want to know about little Jimmy’s experiments with the hoover, it will ruin her perception of her Grandson and may send her to an early grave – you don’t need that on your conscience before the disco has started.

Structure

Anyone who has done any kind of presentation in front of people will know the basics of putting a structure in place for this kind of thing, and it will certainly help you to know where you are going with the speech from the outset, that way if you have decided against having the whole speech written out in front of you then you will at least be able to remember the basic sections that you have to cover off. I would suggest you will need the following:

Introduction;

Compliments;

Bit about your relationship with the groom and/or Bride and Groom;

Roasting the Groom;

Sincere bit about the Groom;

Toast.

Timing

By the time you are doing your speech people will have generally eaten, been drinking a fair bit and are probably keen to either escape home (I am pretty sure that some people bring young children to weddings for this escape clause alone) or get back to the bar as quickly as possible. Although they will be looking forward to hearing what you have got, they will not want to sit through a 2 hour Jimmy Carr stand up show so try to keep it brief. 5-10 minutes is standard, and will fly by, if you are particularly good and comfortable speaking then 15 is acceptable too, any longer than that and you are likely to be on the receiving end of a few bread rolls left over from dinner.

Don’t get Drunk

Ok so this is tricky. The day is a long one, there is a lot of emphasis on socialising and getting around to talk to everyone as well as the stress of your responsibilities so it is only natural that a few beers are going to pass your lips. Now if you are anything like me drinking will make you speak more, speak faster, speak with greater confidence, but also with a slight slur and the occasional balance issue. This is ok if you happen to be out with friends and arguing over the quiz machine. When you are giving a speech at the most important day of your mate / brother’s life and all eyes are on you then
it doesn’t go down so well and all those laughs that you think you are
getting…. you’re not, at least not in a good way.

Compliments

Ok so the Bride and the Bridesmaids are a given, tell them they look beautiful, did a great job and embarrass them with a round of applause, they will blush and tell you to stop but will definitely love it and it will give you as good a chance as you can generate for yourself with the bridesmaids at the disco later. Why not step away from tradition and compliment a couple of others here? Mothers in law get a bad rep, cut them some slack and let them know how important they are, same for the fathers. Any little kiddies that have carried rings down the aisle or acted as ushers, make them feel valued too. If nothing else then thank the barman, you will be needing him later on.

Sincerity

You can choose to go one of three ways with a best mans speech. You can be funny, you can rip into the groom or you can be sincere. The best is probably a combination of all three but probably the most important is the sincerity. This guy has chosen you out of all his mates / siblings to be the one guy he can rely on to get him through the day. It is the one opportunity you will get to really show him how much that honour means to you. It doesn’t have be wet to be sincere, you don’t have to take acting classes to produce Oscar winning tears, it just has to involve a few well chosen words about how much you value the friendship, how highly you think of him, and how happy you are that he has found someone to look after him / take over his life / other ball and chain type jokes.

Giving the Speech

Ok so you have nervously tapped your glass with your fork and the room is falling silent, all eyes are on you. Time to shine. Remember a few points here and you will fly through it. Firstly, the audience is on your side, they are there to have a good time, they want to listen to you talk (apart from the kids, they are there because their parents couldn’t find a sitter). Essentially, no matter how many of them there are, they want it to go well as much as you do. Don’t imagine them in their underwear, that is just weird. Secondly the audience wants to laugh. Get an early joke in and get your confidence up, once you have that you will relax into the rest of the speech and the laughs will flow. Most of all, relax, enjoy it and before you know it you will be done and the bar will be there whether it went to plan or not.

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Why University is a Waste of Your Time and Money

I have a degree. It took me 3 years and £12,000 to get it. My girlfriend does not have a degree, she started working straight from college and when we first met, both aged 28, we were on a training course for the same job. It does make you wonder whether I made the right choice or whether I would have been as well to do something else after compulsory education had finished.
The problem is that you often get influenced by those around you. Everyone from my school went to university, it was just the expected course of action. My
brother went too. I dare say if I had decided not to my parents would have been
supportive, but I know that most of my peer group would have been taken aback by my deviation from the norm. Making huge decisions about your future at the age of 17 is a strange obligation which I have never really understood. Granted there is always one or two in your class who are destined to be doctors,
lawyers or politicians and have very obvious paths mapped out for them in their
DNA. For those like myself who knew nothing about what they wanted to do then, stumbled into courses like Tourism or Archaeology and fell out of University into jobs in finance and marketing, you have to ask whether the decision should have been delayed by a couple of years whilst we tried a couple of things out.

There is no doubt that University in the UK prepares you for a multitude of life’s challenges, not least the social skills you need to function in the adult world and the life skills you need when you leave home. In terms of setting you up for a fulfilling life with a rewarding career though? Maybe not. My degree gets me past a certain amount of obstacles when applying for a job. Does the candidate have a degree? Check. Into the next pile, if not then into the bin you go. However, beyond this does it really have any relevance unless you are applying for a particularly vocational role? The merit of real experience and initiative I think would hold much greater weight, together with speaking to the right people.

I have a real hatred of recruitment consultants as a path to gaining a new job. This is nothing against them personally as I understand why they do what they do, but the methods they have to employ makes the whole process so soul destroying for people seeking an opportunity to just speak to the actual decision maker and tell them why they would be the best person for the job.

Gary Vaynerchuk has talked extensively about personal branding and how this will be the resume of the future. I am inclined to agree, even though I have no real gravitas in recruiting terms. If I were a recruiter and I had a stack of CV’s to go through, but then received an email from an applicant which contained a link to their own blog, website or youtube account that showed me exactly what they are capable of and gave me real life examples of it, I don’t think I would even bother looking at the CV’s. If you get a chance to read Crush It by Gary Vaynerchuk (even better grab the audiobook, Gary’s enthusiasm makes the content even more motivational!) then I would recommend it. Some parts will be relevant, some not so much but it will definitely make you think.

If there is anyone reading this who is at that early stage of decision making, or even if you are, like me, at a bit of a crossroads in your life and are looking to make career decisions that could include further education, think, really think about whether a degree course is going to be the best way to achieve what you want. If I knew then what I know now I would have chosen to spend a couple of years working to try to find something that I loved rather than spend three years doing a bit of work and a lot of drinking to come out the other end and do a job I could have done with three years experience behind me anyway.

There will be those who will be shouting me down saying that they would never have gotten their job at DB or Goldman Sachs without their degree from such and such a university, but the truth is the majority of people coming out of University right now don’t end up there, they end up doing a low level job for a small salary and paying their student loans back over years and years for the sake of 3/4 years of partying and eating pasta.

I suspect that if you can get hold of the curriculum for most courses and the reading lists too, then you could learn 80% of what you do whilst in tuition.

I would be interested to hear people’s thoughts on this. I think being in the position I am where I haven’t perhaps made the most of the opportunity I had it is easy for me to argue one side of this and there are bound to be thoughts from the other side of the coin. Let me know whether you feel university is still the holy grail for you?

How to be Productive When You Are Truly Lazy

There is one or two issues that I am facing that I feel need some work. As I have mentioned before, I don’t really know where I am going, this is what I hope to discover as time goes by and I learn new things. More importantly perhaps, is that I am inherently lazy. This is something my mother has pointed out numerous times, this is something that my girlfriend now points out as well, but most of all it is something that I know is 100% true. I have to actively force myself to take action most of the time, maintaining motivation is, and always has been, a struggle. So it does beg the question, how can you be productive when you are lazy?

I have done a lot of soul-searching and looked at certain aspects of my life to try to understand myself better and a lot of this boils down to perceptions of what is important and what stimulates your mind. As with many things, tricking your mind into thinking the way that you want it to work is often the solution.

Let me give you an example of how my mind works in its unmotivated state. I currently work in a sales role, the more work I do, the more clients I see, the more opportunities I get to make more money. I have worked in a similar role for 6 years. I am very good at my job, I have a great relationship with my clients, they trust me, they respect my knowledge and opinion and walk away from our meetings with a clear picture of what had previously been a complicated issue for them.

If I felt so inclined, I could see more people during the day and it wouldn’t affect my ability to provide a good service. This would lead to more money for yours truly. So why, you might ask, am I not writing this from my own private island in the sun, sipping long island iced teas and waiting for my personal chef to come along and present my evening menu? It is because I am not interested in the subject. I am actively foregoing income so that I don’t have to work so hard because the work I am doing does not flick my switch. Now, a lot of people reading that statement will be saying things along the lines of “you should quit” or “why don’t you work harder for the money and then use it to do the things you like” but people saying these things are probably not lazy people. Lazy people will be saying, yeah, I do that too.

Now this is how my laziness affects my work life in my employed role, the problem is that it is infectious and can spread to the rest of your life very easily. If I wasn’t lazy, the washing up would get done quicker, my clothes would be tidied away every night instead of being in my “I’ll use it again soon” pile and that stack of stuff I have been meaning to Ebay for the last two months would be currently cluttering up someone elses’ house. The irony of me writing this post as one of my first on my pro-active, get a better life blog, is not lost on me, writing it is a cathartic process and is, to me, a symbol of my dedication to overcome my own self to succeed in this. In other words, my mind has decided that it is interested in this and therefore I am determined to finish it.

So how do we break the cycle? Recognising the issue first of all is most important, the reality is I am lazy with stuff that I don’t find interesting,
however if I decide that I really want to organise my wardrobe, I will work
harder than you could imagine until it is done, then walk straight past the boring old washing up to get a drink before attacking my sock drawer with gusto. Just how clean was your room when you were studying for your exams? How many times did you rearrange your furniture? You know what I am talking about….

Making a commitment to change in an area you know you are weak is important, but probably more so is making sure that there is a reason
for this, a goal set to achieve that is dependent on you making that change.
This could be something tangible, by committing to seeing three more clients
per week I could take home an extra £900 per month, that is nearly £11k per
year. I could use these funds to buy my camper to go around Europe in and tick
it off my list. Conversely the rewards could be intangible, how many people
wish they had more time? Do they need more time or do they just need to make
better use of the time that they already have but fritter away on Facebook or
angry birds pretending that they are busy? You can apply this kind of thinking
to a number of different roles and projects and it is really simple stuff, but
ultimately, it is either going to save you time or make you money.

By doing 30 minutes of housework before I sit down at night I appear to be a great boyfriend (tonnes of benefits) and the house is cleaner meaning that my weekends are clear for whatever I want to do, it is a domestic opportunity cost I guess.

So by isolating the potential benefit or the opportunity cost of inaction, I cajole myself into most actions. Goal setting is something that everyone does, but by giving the goals relevance and working towards them you essentially challenge your lazy instincts.

Lists. I love lists, but I fall into the trap of constantly making lists and never actioning them, or only actioning parts of them because I forget where I made the list or what was important because I have gotten side-tracked by a lesser, but more exciting, item that cropped up while I was writing it. Quite often I will be writing a list on one topic and will suddenly think of something completely irrelevant that I need to do, the number of times “digitise my DVD collection” has turned up in lists of things I need to get done is unbelievable! There are a number of approaches to lists and I guess that what works for one won’t necessarily work for another but my key things are:

Prioritise things into must get done today, must get done this week and nice to get dones, that way I shouldn’t be missing deadlines or anything important and might get some ad hoc things done each week that I wasn’t necessarily expecting to do.

Booking time in your schedule for things is also important. I currently need to sort out an issue with a tenant, if I don’t book a 30 minute slot in my diary to do this, it will get left for a few days, this is despite the fact that I will have more than enough time to deal with it today, tomorrow or the next day.

I have been reading Getting Things Done by David Allen who speaks about having collection buckets for items that need to be cleared regularly, but by having these devices you get all of the tasks out of your head, put into actionable processes and timescales are put on them. That way, your head should be clear for whatever you are doing at that given time and automatically you will become more efficient and productive. I am keen to adopt more of this kind of personal organisation as with my job, blogging and everything else that life demands, I know that my lazy streak is going to be a major obstacle that I need to overcome to keep this blog going. I carry my moleskin everywhere I go now so that I always have access to my list for ticking things off or adding things to it, it also means that I know where the damn things are.

I plan to write more on personal productivity as I get better at it and when I can be bothered……

Ciao Venice! A Glimpse into the Future..

Spot the Tourists

Through a quirk of fate both Tess and I were off work this week. An unexpected but welcome surprise, and a chance to get some work done on other things. The immediate suggestion from Tess was to go to New York, clearly an awesome idea and further proof of why I love this girl, however also further proof as to why we are a bad combination of dreamers! For a moment I thought common sense would prevail and we would do a budget trip over to France to do some wine tasting and some sight-seeing, but in the end we settled somewhere in
the middle and spent four days in Venice. Having the time and the opportunity
to be able to take breaks like this are what fuels the fire for me, there are
some awesome places on earth and such a huge percentage of us will only ever
see a very limited proportion of them, I don’t want to be in that group. I
lived with a group of New Zealanders when I first moved to London and probably the main trait I love about them as a nation are that they are true vagabonders, they come over to the UK and they work hard (well, some of them do) and then use their earnings to explore Europe as much as they can, constantly popping over to another country and discovering what is there. They do this for most of their twenties and then either settle in London or they go home again. Most of us Brits will spend a lifetime working all year and use our 25 days holiday to take a package holiday to a Greek island, stay in the hotel until night comes around and then go get drunk in a nightclub.

Venice to me, came at a perfect time and gave me a real insight into why I want to do this and what you could be experiencing if you can isolate your income generation from your location. If I can get to the point where I can sit with my laptop overseeing my business, pack up and wander across San Marco square to a little wine bar, knowing that tomorrow I could jump on a train and do the next working day from Verona or Milan or wherever else, then I will know that the effort is all worthwhile. Granted it is an idealistic view, but there are more than enough examples to know that it is achievable.  The feelings from this last week are important to hold on to instil an understanding of what I am working towards.