What Copywriters Can Learn From Best Man Speeches (and Vice Versa)


best man speech

Best man tip: keep 'em sweet.

“You’re a writer,” my friends said. “You better be good.”

Thanks, guys. Thanks for the added pressure.

Against the odds, I emerged from my ordeal as a best man mostly unscathed (unless dagger-stares from elderly relatives leave permanent scars). I’ve now had time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t.

And, wouldn’t you know, some of the tips apply rather snugly to copywriting…

Vary the pacing

Short one-liners, extended stories, questions to the audience, crowd participation – varying your pacing keeps people on their toes. Take them on a journey. But think epic adventure, not long family car trip to Torquay.

As for your copy? Mix up it there too. Bullet points, short sentences, longer sentences, questions, tales – use what you need to keep it interesting. Heck, throw in a badger, if it fits.

Tell a story. Make it personal.

People love stories. Yet, some of the so called “hilarious” speeches on YouTube are no more than nervous BMs reading stolen one-liners from a sweaty sheet of paper.

Instead of rehashing tired old lines, get personal and tell a story. Who doesn’t perk up in interest when they hear the words “Let me tell you a story about the time…”

Unearth the unusual.

This is an old journalism saying.

Everyone has a tale about the groom drinking too much. But not everyone can tell a story about the time he woke up in the penguin enclosure with a mouth full of raw sea bass.

Unearth the unusual. Surprise an audience. And of course, apply the same logic to your copy. (Example: are you a web development company, or the only web development company that works from a disused nuclear bunker?)

Be clear.

If you can’t be creative, be clear.

Ditch the pretentious language. In its place use short, punchy wording. And try and keep the matey jargon to a minimum (not everyone in the room knows what your internal slang means). And that applies to you too, Mr. Technology Company Website.

Of course, if you can be clear and creative, you’re onto a winner.

Keep it short (enough).

I once sat through a 45-minute best man speech. And this was no Bill Hicks.

Keep your speech long enough for the juice and jokes. Keep it short enough that the guests aren’t passing out with Pimms withdrawal symptoms. If you’ve got twenty pages of notes to get through – be ruthless and kill your darlings. Not every line needs to stay.

Need I draw the obvious parallel with copywriting? Just long enough, please. And no more.

Judge your audience. Carefully.

No matter how hilarious you think you are, not everyone will appreciate your sense of humour.

And, in business terms, no matter how much you think your market is “everyone”, it isn’t.

Here’s where copywriting and best man speeches part company briefly.

In copywriting terms, you have two options: speak to the people that care, or smear a diluted message across the uninterested faces of a wider demographic. I know which I’d choose.

But, as a best man, you need to cater for a wide audience. Because they’ve got no choice but to listen. We can’t have the bride’s granny choking on her Prosecco because you’ve decided to tell the one about the Amsterdam brothel.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative, cheeky and, hopefully, hilarious. And, whether you’re entertaining drunken guests or penning copy, remember one basic rule: don’t be boring.

Keep that in mind, and you’ll be fine.

(photo credit: madamn flick)


4 Comments

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  1. Hey Paul,

    Great post – I was best man at a wedding last year – and I can see a lot of parallels!

    Writing the speech I didnt find so difficult, but delivering it – that was tough – especially as half the audience was spanish and didnt understand a word I was saying!

    Got through it in the end though!

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  2. Paul (Author)

    Cheers Pete!

    Yeesh – delivering a speech to a non-English speaking crowd? Tough gig, mate!

    It’s a quite a buzz when you’re finished though, isn’t it? And it’s straight to the bar after that of course…

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  3. I actually loaded myself up at the bar before the speech, ready to roll outside with a big fat cigar… and my god, that buzz when finishing was absolutely ace…

    Only 1 joke hit a bit of a nerve, so I quickly moved on from there 😉

    Reply
  4. Becky

    Hi Paul
    I’m not stalking you, honest. Just spying on what you do for a living.
    I’ll pass your pointers onto Rich. He’s on for his first duty in June and as you might guess, he’s not one for public addresses. I think he’ll appreciate any help he can get!
    Very much looking forward to March 7th. I hope Charan’s booked those Rizzle Kicks tickets.
    Becky

    Reply