Help! I’ve got to give a short speech at my company’s Holidays do and I’m no extrovert…

speeches,business,social,presentations,public speaking,weddings,occasions,writing,speakingDear HTWB Agony Columns

As a senior manager at my company I’ve been asked to say a few words at our Holidays party on behalf of “the workers…” I know what basic things I should say but hell – it’s the Holidays, so I know I should lighten up a bit. But that will be hard for me as I’m not what you’d
call a “showman.” What do you recommend?

Aaron from San Diego [Read more…]

Speeches and presentations: scripted or seat of the pants?

medium_2075045856 (1)Having written literally thousands of speeches for clients over many years, I firmly believe in the discipline scripts provide so that from there, you make a natural yet well structured presentation.

Many others, including experts like my dear friend, presentation training supremo Simon Raybould, would not necessarily agree. But let’s get something straight here. [Read more…]

Super Speeches: how to write and deliver them well

Super Speeches: how to write and deliver them wellIf you ever need to write and give a presentation for business …
a speech at a social occasion …
an audio recording or podcast …
a video production for your website …
or several more speaking needs …
here’s some expert advice – plus loads of tips that will make your speech spectacular!

This is Suzan St Maur’s 20+ years’ experience of speechwriting for business and social clients packed into one 25,000 word eBook…

… Want it right now? It’s just USD $4.50 (GBP £3.00 approx.)

You’ll receive your copy within a few hours of the PayPal transaction going through – Suzan processes all sales herself along with writing a personal note to you.

Here’s what you get:

1.Presentations for business and other non-social activities

  • So, what about that preparation?
  • Cut the clutter
  • The right order
  • Openers and closers
  • Spoken speech
  • Basic spoken speech skills
  • Writing for someone else
  • Why a full script?
  • Anecdotes and humour
  • Visuals

2.Audio presentations

  • Remember that audio speech really is “a word in your ear”
  • There’s no mystique about spoken speech
  • On a website, work with the online text – don’t fight it or mirror it
  • Use a crisp, uncluttered style
  • Check everything you write by reading it aloud
  • Words on their own become boring
  • Use a voice artiste to record your audio track

3.Video presentations

  • Speaking to camera
  • Off-camera interview technique
  • A word about sound for video

4.Social speeches

5.Rehearse, rehearse

6.Delivery tips

  • Advice from an expert drama coach
  • Delivery tips: my own
  • Microphones: how to use them
  • Some further tips of mine

7.Women speakers

  • Advice from an expert drama coach

8.Some sample scripts

  • Business, after dinner
  • Business, same client, conference (day)
  • Business, same client, radio show
  • Social, father of Bat Mitzvah girl
  • Social, bride
  • Social, mother of bride

So don’t hesitate – grab this eBook today before it goes to Kindle and print and becomes more expensive! … Now just USD $4.50 (GBP £3.00 approx.)

You’ll receive your copy within a few hours of the PayPal transaction going through – Suzan processes all sales herself along with writing a personal note to you.

Words of wedding wisdom: WEDDING GUESTS – who and how many

Welcome to this series of articles based on my popular book, “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” … a few juicy extracts that you might like, to give you a taster of what the book can do to help make your wedding (or a friend or relative’s wedding) superbly successful.

This time, we look at…

Wedding guests

Compiling the guest list often is one of the most sensitive elements of organizing a wedding. If only it were as simple as just writing down the names of the people you would like to share the day with!

The influencing factors here are as follows, in probable order of importance:

  • Budget (overall)
  • Who’s paying how much of that budget
  • Politics and social obligations
  • Family/cultural/religious traditions


How many people you invite to your wedding depends greatly on how many you can afford to accommodate in terms of booze, food and space at the reception. But don’t forget, you have a choice of options; you don’t necessarily have to have a lavish three course banquet if it means you can’t afford to invite some people who really matter to you. A finger buffet or drinks and canapés can be just as elegant as festive at a far lower cost per head, so you can afford to invite rather more guests. With this option you can also get a greater number of guests into the same space, which helps save even more on the per head cost.

Who’s paying how much of that budget

This is where tempers can get a little frayed, especially if the wedding is being paid for in the old-fashioned way – i.e. largely by the bride’s parents. I remember seething with resentment at my first wedding many years ago when I realized there were some guests there I didn’t even know – they were friends of my parents. However as the groom and I were extremely short of money at the time we didn’t have a lot of choice.

Nowadays the cost is usually spread far more evenly across all the key parties, so there is much less room for unfair allocation of invitations. Precisely how you carve those up is very much a matter of individual preference, but a useful rule of thumb is one third to the bride’s family and friends, one third to the groom’s family and friends, and one third to the bride’s and groom’s own friends. Often you’ll find there is a lot of crossover among these lists which allows for more flexibility all round.

Politics and social obligations

This category can consist of almost anyone who you feel “should” be invited without actually deserving the label of being a “wanted guest.” It includes far-flung, distant relatives you haven’t seen for 20 years, a godmother who stopped sending you birthday cards when you were 5 years old, your Dad’s boss and his wife, and then all the people whose weddings or whose children’s weddings you and your parents have been invited to in the past. In my view these people should be last on the list of priorities but there may be sound political reasons why they need to be invited. Give and take is needed here, as well as – as always – clear communication between you and the two families.

Family/cultural/religious traditions

Although family traditions are usually easier to negotiate, cultural and religious traditions regarding who has to be invited to a wedding are often non-negotiable without causing World War Three to break out. Couples wishing to avoid going along with such traditions should really consider having a very small, secular wedding – perhaps a destination wedding – rather than try to cope with ill feelings about having to have the traditional variety, and/or paying a fortune for it. They can then be free to celebrate their marriage after the fact, with whoever they please.

Partners too?

You can’t really avoid inviting husbands, wives or live-in partners, but do you invite single guests to bring a date? A lot depends on how many guests you can accommodate, both physically and financially. If you don’t want single guests to bring someone, in theory all you have to do is just put the single person’s name on the invitation without the added “and partner.” However some people can be bullet-proof and ask if they can bring someone, anyway. See Guests: unwanted, below.

Unwanted guests

When you get one of those phone calls asking if the person concerned can bring a friend, don’t be intimidated into saying yes if you don’t want to. There are ways around it.

If you’re having a dance after the dinner, you could point out to the person that there is no space for extra people for the meal, but his/her partner is welcome to join you for the dancing afterwards.

If you can’t or don’t want the partner there at all, say you’re sorry, but you’re restricted on numbers – however why don’t the four of you go for a drink or a meal after the wedding some time, as you’d love to meet the friend concerned – another time.

Work colleagues

This can be a tricky one, too. You can’t necessarily afford to invite everyone you work with, but if you only invite a few will the others be offended? Once again I think you should play the money card here and say you’d love to invite everyone but simply can’t afford to, so why don’t we have a party or drinks after work to celebrate that way?

If you do invite work colleagues, it makes sense to invite all those with whom you work closely. This strays into the area of politics (see above) but the last thing you want to do is offend someone who sits opposite or next to you for eight hours a day five days a week.

If you’re in sales, and/or are self-employed, you may wonder what to do about your best clients or customers. You have to use your common sense here; do you really want them to see you and your personal life in all its glory at the wedding? Are they the sort of people who would also be personal friends?

If you have any doubts about those two points then don’t invite them. If they feel they don’t fit in with the rest of your crowd and don’t know anyone else, they won’t enjoy the wedding very much. At the same time, you will feel a little awkward about them being there. If you get the impression that they would like to celebrate with you, however, organize a separate meal, party or drinks for your customers or clients and key staff, if appropriate, as well as your intended, of course!

Make sure your invitations are clear

When you send out the invitations, make sure the wording is clear and that guests know exactly when and where they should turn up. If you want the party to end at a specific time, make that clear too. This avoids misunderstandings and guests being mislaid! It’s especially important to make the places and timings clear when your guest list includes friends from other cultures and nationalities, as their expectations of how a wedding works might be different from yours.

For all 174 pages of helpful tips and advice, grab your copy of “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” from Amazon (USA), Amazon (Canada), Amazon (UK) and all other Amazons.

Words of wedding wisdom: WEDDING FINANCES and how to handle them

Welcome to this series of articles based on my popular book, “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” … a few juicy extracts that you might like, to give you a taster of what the book can do to help make your wedding (or a friend or relative’s wedding) superbly successful.

This time, we look at…


Ah, that filthy five-letter word: m-o-n-e-y.

One good thing that has happened in recent times which helps ease the strain of wedding costs is the fact that etiquette on who pays for what has relaxed considerably. In the bad old days the bride’s family got stuck paying for nearly everything. A father of several daughters would have to save for years and even then virtually bankrupt himself if he was to “marry off his daughters in style.”

Now, thankfully, people are a lot more realistic and financing a wedding is usually shared across the two families and the bride and groom themselves. Not only does this spread the financial load but also it evens out the politics; if he who pays the piper calls the tune, at least with this arrangement there is a reasonable number of payers. The resulting financial parity makes it a lot more difficult for any individual to get bossy, and it’s much easier to run the whole show democratically.

No matter how much money you have available, it makes a great deal of sense to set a budget at the outset and stick to it as far as possible. It’s also sensible to set aside a contingency fund of, say, 10 or 15 percent of the total in case of unforeseen expenses and emergencies.

How to prioritize

There is lots of helpful information on wedding finances in books and on the internet (key “wedding finance” into Google or other search engine, or look up the “Wedding Guide” in your local Yellow Pages) so I won’t go on about it at length here.

Particularly if you’re short of money, prioritizing the elements of your wedding can make budgeting a whole lot easier. Start with a “must have” list of essentials like ceremony venue, licenses, fees, dress, reception venue, cake, etc.

Continue with a “should haves” list to include elements like hired cars or other transport, entertainment for the reception, etc., and finish with a “nice to haves” list of luxury items, silver service sit-down meal, pretty place gifts for guests, live band, exotic honeymoon, and so-on.

These three lists should make it easier to plan your spend, and to ensure enough is allocated to the essentials.

Parents paying

When the parents are paying for the lion’s share of the wedding they can sometimes become a bit too pushy and undervalue what you want, in favor of what they think you should have. Money does have a way of talking here as it does everywhere else. But even if you aren’t paying anything towards the wedding it is still your day. Obviously some give and take makes sense, but if things go too far in a direction that’s wrong for you, threaten to elope. That often brings them to their senses…

Think about your guests

If by any chance yours is to be one of two or more weddings in one family, community or group of friends, it can mean everyone has to find quite a lot of money in a short timeframe. Not only do they need to buy gifts for you and the others getting married, but also the women are likely to want to wear a different outfit to each wedding! Try to avoid setting your wedding date too close to that of another family member, friend or neighbor who is likely to be inviting many of the same guests.

Ways of saving

If you’re short of money you can’t beat a bit of “thinking outside the box,” as the cliché goes. For starters, provided most of your guests can be a bit flexible on dates and times, you’ll get some much cheaper deals from wedding venues if you book on a weekday, and/or in the morning to early afternoon.

As for the number of guests, you’ll find it’s probably cheaper overall to have a small wedding – family and close friends only – and then have a larger party some time later, maybe when you get back from honeymoon. The thing about parties as opposed to wedding receptions is that people’s expectations are not aimed so high! You can even get away with asking people to contribute drink and food at a party, whereas to do so for a wedding reception looks a bit mean.

Rather than hiring a wedding reception venue, look around your family and friends and see if anyone has a largish house you can borrow. Of course you will have to compensate them for any damage, but they may well let you have the place for free. Equally, you may find it cheaper to put up a marquee in your own or someone else’s garden, but this can still be quite expensive by the time it has been erected, equipped, decorated, heated, and outside catering has been brought in.

Restaurants are useful places to seek good value for a reception. Particularly if you choose an off-peak day – and/or lunch – you may find they will give you an extremely sensible per-head price. With a restaurant reception usually you can still choose whether to have a buffet or a served meal, and you can get away with asking guests to buy their own wine – perhaps just providing a sparkling wine for the speeches and toasts.

Talking of sparkling wine, forget the expensive champagne. These days it’s seen as pretty “cool” to have a decent sparkling white wine from Spain or Italy instead, at a fraction of the cost per bottle. Depending on the venue you choose for the reception it may be worth your while to take a “booze cruise” to continental Europe to buy your supplies. However bear in mind that many venues will charge you corkage if you bring your own alcoholic drink.

Another cute money-saving idea is one that comes from the US; it’s called a “Potluck Reception.” The idea is that instead of bringing a wedding gift, guests bring a dish of food. You can set the theme if you want, or ask them to get in touch with you to discuss what they can bring. I’ve never tried that but it strikes me as a nice idea!

Then there are the more obvious ways of cutting back on costs, like hiring a wedding dress or even buying one second hand; key “second hand wedding dresses” into Google or other search engine for sources, or look up the “Wedding Guide” in your local Yellow Pages.

Wedding insurance

Many companies offer wedding insurance and this can be a very good idea, especially with the unpredictable lives we seem to lead.

For a relatively modest premium, these policies will cover the cost of problems arising from wedding dresses, wedding clothes hire, transport, gifts, photographer and photographs, the wedding video, the rings, deposits lost due to bankruptcy of suppliers, wedding cakes, public liability, etc.

As with any insurance purchase, shop around and read the small print. And be warned; most wedding insurance does not cover you for cancellation due to the bride and groom splitting up!

For more information key “wedding insurance” into Google or other search engine, or look it up in the “Wedding Guide” of your local Yellow Pages.

For all 174 pages of helpful tips and advice, grab your copy of “The A to Z of Wedding Wisdom” from Amazon (USA), Amazon (Canada), Amazon (UK) and all other Amazons.

How to write an invitation

How to write an invitation for weddings and other social occasionsConsidering the trouble and expense we go to when creating printed invitations for special occasions, it’s worth checking out just what you need to write on them so your guests know exactly what to expect. Here are some tips you may find helpful.

Whatever it’s for, get all the facts straight

You’d be surprised how many invitations to weddings, baptisms, bar mitzvahs etc. get mailed out with one or more pieces of crucial information missing. In our haste to get the thing ready for the printer – especially if we’re up to our ears in other preparations for the Big Day – it’s very easy to leave off a time, part of an address, etc. which can lead to all sorts of complications. Here are some ideas you can use; the tips are not necessarily in chronological order, though.

Who’s inviting

In most cases this is very straightforward – the name/names of the people or organisation hosting the event. Where you can get into a bit of hot water is with wedding invitations if you use the old-fashioned format where the hosts are the bride’s parents and they are divorced, widowed, remarried, etc. Here’s a quick look at how to handle that:

Parents together: Mr and Mrs John Smith” …. “at the marriage of their daughter”

Parents split up: “Mrs Angela Smith and Mr John Smith” …. “at the marriage of their daughter”

Mother remarried: “Mrs Angela Jones and Mr John Smith” …. “at the marriage of their daughter”

Mother and stepfather: Mr and Mrs Henry Jones” …. “at the marriage of her daughter”

Father and stepmother: Mr and Mrs John Smith” …. “at the marriage of his daughter”

Who’s being invited

It’s important to make this clear, especially if the invitation is to include anyone other than the main addressee. If you want single people to bring someone, write “Judith and Guest” or more formally “Ms Judith Grant and Guest.”  You can also use “partner” instead of “guest” which suggests you only want them to bring someone they’re close to rather than pull in someone off the street, but that doesn’t always work!

What they’re being invited to

How to write an invitation for weddings and other social occasionsThis may seem obvious, but there can be subtleties that escape your notice. For example with wedding invitations, the old-fashioned way of just inviting people to “the marriage of” followed by the ceremony “and afterwards at (address)” doesn’t tell people whether to expect a meal, dancing, snacks, tea, etc. so they won’t know whether to eat beforehand or not.

Also it’s quite important to explain the occasion so people know who is paying for it and who is the beneficiary! If you’ve just got engaged and your Dad is throwing a party for you, the invitation should say something like “Mr John Doe / John Doe invites (names) to celebrate his daughter Mary’s engagement to Bill Blogs.” Sad fact of life, but unless Mary and Bill are picking up the tab, it’s Daddy’s shout and he gets to headline the invite.

What time things happen

Although in theory all you have to do is give people a start time, it’s helpful to give them a finish time too – not just so they know when you want them to leave, but also so they can plan for babysitters, taxis, etc.

With lengthy events it’s a good idea to give the timings of each section, e.g. ceremony, reception, dinner, etc. and indicate if there is going to be a gap between one and the next to give people a chance to have a rest, change their clothes, etc.

Where it’s happening

On the invitation itself all you can hope to do is provide the full address and postcode of each venue involved in the event, but unless such places are easy to find you should enclose a separate sheet of paper with directions on it … for those of us who have misplaced our sat navs/GPS!

In the case of events where a ceremony takes place at venue #1 and the festivities continue at venue #2 elsewhere, don’t make the mistake of assuming everyone will follow a leader in their cars … many will get lost. Trust me. Ensure your directions include those on how to get from #1 to #2, and on how to get from the final venue back on to a main road. For tips on how to write good directions, see this article of mine.

What to wear

With some traditional events people most people know what to wear – e.g. cocktail party, drinks party, wedding, etc. – but often it’s useful to include the dress code so people won’t experience the horrible embarrassment of turning up in the wrong outfit (I’ve been there and remember how it feels.) Here are some of the more common UK dress code jargon terms you can use…

White Tie … the full works; tailcoat for men, long evening gown for women, all the bling you like including a tiara if you want.

Morning Dress … grey or black tailcoat and striped trousers/pants for men, elaborate dress or suit with hat and matching accessories for women

Black Tie … dinner jacket/tuxedo for men, long or very formal short dress for women, reasonable bling!

Lounge Suit … dark suit with plain shirt and tie for men, smart dress or suit for women

Smart Casual … (e.g.) collared shirt, plain trousers/pants and informal jacket for men, smart separates for women (no jeans unless very “designer!”)

Casual … pretty much anything goes

For more information, try or Google “dress code” for the relevant country.

What about email?

No matter how high-tech we’ve become many people revert to the traditional print format when it comes to social occasions (and even business events) – however if you want to be greener and save trees, there are several good sites that offer you the chance to send out eInvitations. Many provide templates of wording which you can either use straight off, or customize for your event. is one such site; otherwise Google “e invitations.”

Why invitations are often written in the 3rd person

Invitations in the past have nearly always been written that way and I know, it does sound pretty old-fashioned to write “John and Mary Doe cordially invite (name/names) to their housewarming party”…etc. However there is a distinct advantage with the 3rd person; it’s much easier to specify who is invited. The alternative in the 1st and 2nd persons would leave everyone wondering who was being talked about … “we invite you to our housewarming party” … !

Now, invite some better results from your  writing:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

“English to English: the A to Z of British-American translations”…more than 2,000 business and social terms from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand


photo credit: William Arthur Fine Stationery via photopin cc
photo credit: Peter Kaminski via photopin cc