When you stand up to give a speech at your child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah, it ought to be one of the main highlights of your celebration, not the most dreaded one. For most of you, this might be the first time you will be getting up in public and delivering a speech so it is understandable that you will be anxious and stressed. For those of you who are used to public speaking, you might be shocked that something that you do easily for work or for other purposes seems impossible to do at this time.
Speaking words of praise and encouragement and sharing your parental aspirations with your child is usually done privately at home with just the immediate family. Yet, now, at this crucial moment, your task is to publically convey to your child, in front of the wider family and a mixed group of friends something that you hope your son or daughter will remember in the years to come.
So how can you get over the anxiety and stage fright and dare I say, actually enjoy the moment??
Here are my 5 tips to help you write and deliver a memorable speech:
- Give yourself enough time before the celebration to work on your speech. This is crucial. Start by writing rough notes at the same time you begin working on menus and party themes. Writing is a process and worked on by our subconscious even when we are not directly focusing on it. Collect the little bits your subconscious offers up over time and write it all down. This becomes your raw material and is then easy to fashion into a coherent speech.
- Do not try and cram everything about your child who you have raised and loved for over a decade into a few short minutes. Pick 4-5 of his/her strongest qualities and praise him/her for them and even do so using an anecdote or two. Remember that although this is your child’s special day, too much public praise can leave your listeners uncomfortable and your child feeling awkward in front of his/her friends. Which leads me to…
- If you are not sure whether a story or a particular characteristic of your child will cause embarrassment, CHECK IT OUT! What may be a lovely part of your child’s relationship with you may not be something he/she will be happy letting her classmates hear. If you are unsure whether to include something ask… or play it safe and leave it out.
- Think about something meaningful to you as a parent and/or as a family that you would like to convey to your child as he begins his/her Jewish adult journey through life. It could be something your parents taught you that helped you throughout your life or it could be something that your particular child needs to hear. There are numerous sources you can turn to for help in formulating your ideas; Jewish source books, psychology books and trusted family and friends are a start. This is the core of your speech and the more thought you give it the more confident and powerful you will feel when you stand up to speak.
- Be yourself. Make sure that what you get up to say truly reflects you. If you are not good at telling jokes, don’t. If you are in the medical profession use it and its language to express yourself. In other words, use what is familiar to you and what you are acquainted with. Now is not the time to try out a new style of expression. Use your own style, just use it honestly and with consideration.
I hope these tips help you to get going on your speech. Wishing you happy writing and a wonderful celebration.