So you’ve been invited to a wedding, a retirement party, or some other celebration in which friends and family are going to gather in order to honor someone. 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?
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! Don’t tell stories about old girlfriends at a wedding and don’t tell stories about stealing office supplies at a retirement party. Instead, tell a story that shows the person(s) of honor in a good light. Oh, and keep it to under a minute.
I have always found wedding toasts to be a bit of a challenge. There are too many ways that things can go wrong, too many people that you could end up offending. Over the course of time, I have refined and polished my wedding toast so that it goes something like this:
“Friends and family, we are gathered here to celebrate the wedding of … They are who they are because the people in this room have taken the time to shape and mold them into the people that they have become today – and for that we apologize! However, from this day forward, it will be up to them to determine together who they want to become and we wish them all the luck in doing so.”
So there you go, a little sappy, a little funny, and hopefully just right for a toast.
Have you ever had to give a toast at an event? Were you able to prepare or was it spur-of -the -moment? Have you ever seen a toast go horribly wrong? What was the result? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.