Don’t Toast The Holidays: How Presenters Can Give A Toast Without Toasting A Relationship

by drjim on December 14, 2009

A Poorly Given Toast Can Burn A Relationship

A Poorly Given Toast Can Burn A Relationship

Editor’s Note: This article has been selected to be included in Angela DeFinis’ “Public Speaking and the Holidays” Blog Carnival. If you aren’t familiar with blog carnivals, they are a compilation of blog posts from numerous authors on a given topic that are housed on a central blog.

Enjoy this article and be sure to check out the other ones at Angela’s blog.


It’s the holiday season once again, a virtual minefield of social speaking opportunities. I can just see it now: you’re at the office Christmas party, there will probably be some sort of food served, drinks will flow, and then someone will do it – they’ll stand up and give a toast. Oh, oh – now it’s your turn to do the same thing. How are you going to do this without looking like a fool or destroying your relationship with the person(s) of honor (your boss perhaps?)

First off, get rid of any plans that you might have to say something naughty. Rarely this might go over well; however, more often than not it falls flat on its face and so just say “no”. Michael Varma is a professional speaker who has seen his fair share of toasting disasters and he’s got some advice for all of us.

Michael says that when you are giving a toast, you should always start out by introducing yourself – in a crowd of people, there are probably a bunch of folks who don’t know who you are. Also spell out how you are related to the person(s) of honor because this will help to make your toast clearer. Michael suggests that your actual toast have three characteristics: make it brief, make it bold, and then be done with it.

A toast is NOT a speech! Mark Twain probably said it best when he recommended that toasts should never be longer than 1 minute. The longer your toast, the less impact that it will have. The “air time” that you are taking for your toast belongs to everyone and you need to use as little of it as possible.

When you are giving a toast, this is not the time to be shy. You are probably talking to a noisy room in which people may be eating, drinking, and having their own side conversations. You need to speak up! Your goal should be to speak loudly enough that everyone in the room, including the folks in the back, can hear you clearly.

When you are done speaking, shut up and sit down. Yes you’ve just given a performance; however, this event is not all about you so don’t do any bowing or waving. Shut your mouth and sit down so that everyone can once again return their attention to the person(s) of honor.

If you want your toast to be memorable, then the trick is to tell a story. I must once again reemphasize a key point – keep it clean! You shouldn’t tell stories about old girlfriends at a wedding and you shouldn’t tell stories about stealing office supplies at the annual Christmas party. Instead, tell a story that shows the person(s) of honor in a good light. Oh, and keep it to under a minute.

My recommendation is to get a little sappy, a little funny, and hopefully that will be just right for a toast at any holiday gathering.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Training Connection December 17, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Timely article. Good word here!

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Simon - public speaking training December 27, 2009 at 12:00 pm

No argument from me on any of this! 🙂

Can I add a point? The actual ‘toast’ itself should be very, very short… two or three words is ideal: keep it traditional and don’t be afraid to be somewhat sentimental. The phrase “Bride and Groom” is popular for a reason! 🙂

The thing to remember is that people have to echo what you say when you do your actual toast, so keep it simple!

Simon

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Dr. Jim Anderson December 31, 2009 at 12:35 am

Simon: excellent point — and one that I think we public speakers struggle with. We see a toast as being an opportunity to be “on stage” and we forget that it’s really not about us! I like your 2-3 word challenge, you can’t go wrong with that!

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