We all do it.

We love to comment and criticize on anything and everything and weddings are perfect targets.

And we’ve all sat through dozens of wedding speeches, but can probably only recall one or two as being truly remarkable. These days, people are expecting toasts to be generic and forgettable, so as the best man or maid of honor, the odds are stacked against you.

Not a fun thing to have hanging over your head as the wedding day approaches.

The good news is, you don’t have to be the funniest or most charismatic person to give a memorable speech if you approach it the right way. Here are 10 things to take into account to turn your best man or maid of honor toast into a standout.

1. Don’t Read Your Speech: This doesn’t mean that you have to speak off the cuff. Quite the opposite – you can and should write your talk out from start to finish. They key is rehearsing it to a point where you are so comfortable with the material that you are able to deliver it flawlessly from memory. Let go of that piece of paper as a crutch, make eye contact with the crowd and allow your personality to shine through.

2. Keep it Short: In this day and age where people get their news in 140 characters or less, watch 30 second video soundbites, and hit the back button if a piece of content fails to capture their interest, it’s no surprise that people’s attention spans have shrunk to an average of five minutes. Brevity has never been more important and wedding toasts are no exception. Keep things short and thoughtful (4-6 minutes) so that you don’t lose your audience to their neighbor, the bar, or their smartphone.

3. Start With a Killer Introduction: Your introduction should do two things: 1. Let the audience know who you are and 2. Command their attention. It’s your way of saying to the group “I have something interesting to say and you will listen to me”, so make sure your first 3-4 sentences make an impression. It’s not easy, but if you take the time to think it through, you can surely come up with something fabulous.

4. Tell Stories: People like to be told stories rather than facts, so as you prepare your speech, choose a few tales that convey how you feel about the bride/groom. Instead of saying “Brett is the funniest person I know”, tell the story about the time he showed up to his 30th birthday party dressed as Elvis.

5. Use Transitions: You’ll probably have several stories and points that you will want to get across seamlessly. Be sure to make use of effective transitions to move from one idea to the next. Incorporate bridge words (also, however, which reminds me of) or pause for a moment to create that connection between ideas.

6. Make them Laugh: The best speeches are the funny ones, ones that don’t take themselves too seriously and can get the audience to smile and chuckle. While you don’t have to plan a comedy routine, a clever choice of words can make a big impact.

7. Talk About the Spouse: Half of your audience will come from the opposite side of the wedding party, so don’t make your toast one-sided. Tell a short story or a heartfelt comment about the spouse.

8. Leave out the Inside Jokes: All this will do is make the audience feel excluded and disconnected, which is the opposite of what a good speech should accomplish. Do not talk about things that only two people in the room will understand.  And it goes without saying, but also leave out anything that guests might take offense to or feel uncomfortable or awkward listening to.

9. Have a Drink: Have a cocktail or two to loosen you up, but do not use your nerves as an excuse to over-imbibe before your toast. It will only end poorly.

10. Close with Something Sentimental and Heartfelt: You’ve captivated the audience, delivered a short, narrative-style, entertaining toast, and now you can tie it all together with a tug at the heartstrings conclusion. Go ahead – make them cry, raise your glass and toast to the happy couple.

And if you are the type of person who absolutely abhors being the center of attention and who would rather jump off of a building than speak in front of an audience, then by all means, keep your toast ultra brief but sincere. Read a poem, a quote, and be heartfelt.

So rise up to the challenge, if you dare… you just might surprise even yourself!

Lead image credit: Iloveswmag