speak up

The Jewish Chronicle - JC Magazine - - The Speech -

THE BAR­MITZ­VAH is go­ing re­ally well — the por­tion has been sung beau­ti­fully, the party is won­der­ful... and then the speeches start. He is ner­vous, he mum­bles, then launches into a lengthy and co­main­duc­ing anec­dote — and that’s just the dad.

There is no doubt that some bar­mitz­vah boys and bat­mitz­vah girls (and their par­ents) are con­fi­dent, elo­quent, funny and en­gag­ing when they get up to speak. Then there are bar­mitz­vah boys like me. Let’s just say that my speech was not a tri­umph, though on the pos­i­tive side it was so un­mem­o­rable that no-one, in­clud­ing me, re­mem­bers a word of what I said.

In cer­tain key re­gards, I was spot-on how­ever. I didn’t bore the guests with a long mono­logue — I be­lieve it lasted less than 60 sec­onds. I re­mem­bered to say thanks to my par­ents, al­though you would have to have been stand­ing within three feet of me to have heard any­thing at all. And there there was no in­ap­pro­pri­ate lan­guage... apart from the one oc­ca­sion that I lost my place on the page.

Lawrence Bern­stein is a pro­fes­sional speech writer who has com­posed many a bar­mitz­vah speech. He has some very sen­si­ble tips on how to en­sure that your guests are still awake when the bar­mitz­vah boys sits down. He puts brevity at the top of the list. “I would say that for the bar­mitz­vah boy or bat­mitz­vah girl, five min­utes would be the op­ti­mum time. Th­ese days there could be five or six speak­ers and if they all speak for 10 min­utes you could be in for an hour of speeches when ev­ery­one just wants to get on and en­joy the party.”

Once the speech has been pared down, look at struc­ture. And that means avoid­ing thank­ing ev­ery­one from the syn­a­gogue care­taker to the gar­dener. Bern­steins says: “One of the big­gest flaws in a speech is the shop­ping-list ap­proach. You may feel that there are 17 cru­cial peo­ple to thank, but for the au­di­ence it can be very dull.” Avoid long anec­dotes that are in­ter­est­ing only to the three peo­ple in­volved, and en­sure when com­pos­ing the speech you bear in mind that it is to be spo­ken out loud. Bern­stein ad­vises that you write in short sound bites, rather than clunky para­graphs.

Mem­bers of the fam­ily must com­mu­ni­cate with each other. “Make sure that ev­ery­one who is mak­ing a speech knows what all the oth­ers are say­ing, so that you don’t get the same story six times over.”

Above all, bear in mind the au­di­ence. “Think about what the 100 peo­ple in the room want to hear. When peo­ple are writ­ing speeches they for­get that when they are forced to lis­ten to long-winded, ir­rel­e­vant anec­dotes they get bored them­selves.”

And one fi­nal piece of ad­vice — be­ware the in­ter­net. Bern­stein ex­plains: “There are some bril­liant jokes online, but they have all been used be­fore, hun­dreds of times. When I sit down to write a speech for some­one I al­ways start from scratch. It has to be orig­i­nal.” We can all raise a glass to that.

I’d like to thank my PA; my voice coach...

with d wor has wan tsa Shaw Rou nd Ann e man on itzva h; best Sim barm the the tips for e som

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