Debrief: Recent speech to room full of 100 strangers at sisters wedding

This post looks at the contrast between how I imagined the speech panning out compared to the reality of how it actually went:

Hopes/Plans/Vision in week prior (The Dream)

  • I pictured myself being a smooth operator, taking control of the room, putting on a show for the fans.
  • Confidence was such that I genuinely considered writing a bit of comedy for the set, taking the blog on tour, as is the dream.
  • Speaking without the aid of notes.
  • Only loosely adhering to a script, ad-libbing it in parts.
  • Not feeling any nerves in the build-up, as I am now able to rationalise and control nerves and fear.

The slow, incremental unravelling of The Dream (The Reality)

  • The decision was made the day before to abandon the idea of dabbling in comedy. It was concluded that my attempt at comedy would potentially ruin the whole night for everyone, as well as the wedding itself. It would be remembered not for the occasion, but for the car crash that was my comedy set. It is one thing to write comedy, it’s another to deliver it. The script was subsequently revised.
  • During the day there were bitter internal disputes amongst myself about the content and flow of the speech. I was unable to sign it off. Every time I did, I decided to revise it and rework it on my Blackberry. It precipitated a vicious cycle of ambivalence that threatened to derail my state of mind and the whole campaign. It was not printed until an hour before the wedding on Frank’s computer.
  • As I tried on my rental suit, I discovered my shirt was 12 sizes too big, but still too tight around the neck, and my shoes were like clog boots. ‘Ah for fucks sake’… tugging at neck… ‘I’ve gotta do a fucking speech in this kit, I look like a fool!’. Everyone laughed, but I wasn’t trying to be funny. Furthermore, because I’m not used to walking in shoes with heels (the Guerin brothers don’t wear suits), I walked kinda like I was doing a space walk on the moon.
  • As the moment crept closer, the idea to speak without the aid of notes was seen as utterly ridiculous and fanciful. Not only would I would I refer to them, I decided I would read directly from them, they would be my lifeline. This is not a time for risks or heroes.
  • The ideology of the speech had now shifted, from seeing it as a chance to be a smooth operator, to seeing it simply as a task to try and get through without disgracing myself or my family.
  • After the ceremony, as we entered the marquee and reception area, it all became real. I didn’t know anyone; I would be speaking to strangers. There was no lectern; I would be exposed. It was a big room; it will swallow me up. I became unable to envisage myself in front of everyone. ‘I just can’t see it happening’, I thought. This is not going to be good.
  • At my lowest point, I think for a moment I actually considered doing a runner. Going missing for a few hours and abandoning the whole production.
  • When the moment finally came, I had a complete lack of awareness of what I was doing and what was happening. I did the first part of the speech without the microphone working. I didn’t even know. There could have been a fire in the room, and I would have continued reading.
  • Afterwards, I provided a very special encore. I took my seat to watch the second speech get underway, placed the speech on the table, and subsequently starting a small fire. Unbeknownst to myself, I’d placed it on a candle. The smell of burning started spreading through the room before I picked up the burning speech and stomped on it with my big clogs. ‘Ok, carry on’ I nodded to the speechmaker.

As it turned out, the speech made my sister, her husband, and a few other people cry. Thankfully the tears were due to the poignant nature of the content, not due to being sad and angry about being forced to endure a really shit speech.

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