Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Gaming a 250 Set

It's always a little sad when one of your friends enter a serious, long term relationship. While it's great that they've found someone special in their life, it usually marks the beginning of the divergence of yours. In some rare cases though, the opposite will happen. This past weekend, I had the honor of speaking at my best friend's wedding. His wife, from the moment they started going out, had become one of our closest friends. She's really the "mom" of our group. Even though our lives did diverge a little (especially now that they are married), the two of them have helped me grow tremendously throughout my life. It was only fitting that I could give something back to them, in way of a speech.

As I was writing my speech, I kept having this detrimental vision of me just floundering on stage, a big spotlight on my face, crickets chirping in the background. I did what any sane man would do; I downed a few scotch on the rocks, and set to work. So I'm sitting there, staring at my screen, and it dawns on me. Giving a speech is a lot like picking up a girl at a friend's party. Usually, the host will do some sort of introduction, and leave you to impress her with some funny stories. She'll laugh at your jokes, have a drink or two with you, then tell you she has to get up early tomorrow, but she had a great time and she really wants you to call her to hang out. Not that it ever works out. You just left her wanting more.

The M.C. didn't do a good job introducing me. In fact, saying my name right was about all he did. So I made it a point to introduce myself and stated how I knew the couple. Then I opened with a classic wedding joke:

"You know, [The Bride] is beautiful, smart, caring and loving. She really deserves the perfect husband. Thank God you snagged her, [The Groom] before she found him."

I wasn't sure how the audience would react to it. It's that same opener fear - what if they've heard it before and their unimpressed? It's always the case that they could have heard it a million times, but as long as you deliver it well, they'll laugh.

They laughed. They laughed hard. And I had them. My fear melted away, and I went into short stories. I built up the groom with a couple of funny quips, redoubled on the bride, with a funny story of her flirting with the groom in high school, all the while keeping the crowd on my every word. Here's the best part: these were all stories I've told before. Hell, I've told them to the bride and groom before. But this time, since I had everyone laughing, it felt new.

I closed by focusing on a faltering of the groom: just before they started going out, he had forgotten her birthday. I made him a "Get out of Jail Free" card that had all the important dates he needed to remember on the back. I had focused all of their positive energy, and drawn out the card from my pocket, and handed it to him with a hug and a smile. I asked the crowd to stand, said my toast, and faded to the back.

From then on, people came up to me to offer me drinks, share stories, and generally congratulate me on a well delivered speech. From then on, I owned the crowd.

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