“Man that toast was too short!” (Said nobody, ever)

Want to show some appreciation for friends and family at upcoming Holiday events?  Read my ten tips for Toasting Success and you’ll be remembered as a pro.

  1. It’s not as hard as it seems.  Although public speaking is intimidating for many – telling someone “Thank You” in public is what most of us have been trained to do since we were three!  And a toast is just a formalized extension of that – just stand, clink your glass for silence, and say some sort of extended version of a simple Thank-You… “I think we all owe our hosts a big thank you for such a wonderful time, such great food, and for having the wisdom to invite such an interesting group of friends tonight!
  2. Know Your Audience.  You’re unlikely to give the same toast at a gathering of old school pals as you would at a work event, right? To avoid falling flat, or saying something inappropriate, remember those you’re inviting to raise their glass will be unlikely to do so unless your words are pleasing to their ear.
  3. Toast, Don’t Roast.  I once listened to a Best Man describe how he and the groom once stole a refrigerator from a neighboring apartment. It was the most inappropriate toast I’ve ever heard at a wedding, and was not appreciated by anybody, leaving many of the celebrants in a state of shocked protest when invited to raise their glass. This is not the time for the risky or risqué!
  4. 60 Seconds, Tops. One reason people can feel nervous before giving a toast is the false belief that every toast needs to be a speech. Quite the opposite – as long as your toast conveys your heart-felt gratitude, it’s a success. Your best bet is to shoot for 30-60 seconds, from the first word to the invitation “… so please join me in raising your glass to…
  5. Follow This Proven Outline. Having listened to and studied with some of the world’s truly great public speakers, I don’t think you’ll ever be disappointed when following their outline for a good toast:
    1. Thank the host and/or acknowledge the guest of honor
    2. (Totally optional, but recommended) Describe a shared experience from the past – light, and either humorous and/or touching.
    3. Invite all to join you in raising their glass to the honoree(s).
  6. Do It Early. Those who hate speaking in public find it preferable to procrastinate. But a toast is best when it sets the tone for an event early on – after everyone has been seated at the table and the first wine has been poured, for example.  Just before dessert is also a great time, but comes with the downside of, well, see below…
  7. Don’t Drink Too Much First!  For obvious reasons.  We are never as glib as we think we are after that second or third glass of wine!
  8. Eyeball-to-Eyeball.  Look each other in the eyes as you raise your glass. I learned this important lesson from an Italian winemaker who was aghast at my very American tendency to look at my glass as we clinked, instead of looking at the man who had just honored me with his toast. A toast is a sharing of our humanity, a celebration of it, and as we raise our glasses around the table, it will mean much more if each participant recognizes the others by looking them in the eye as they clink glasses. (This is easier when in a small gathering, of course)
  9. Standing Is Best. Standing at the dinner table as you propose your toast makes it easier to get started, as heads will turn to see what is happening. Clink a water glass (no, not the crystal one!) to gain attention, and dive in, or simply announce “I propose a toast!”.  If standing is not possible for any reason, simply raising your glass can be effective, though it does not convey the same gravity – which is often preferred for casual situations anyway!
  10. Sources of Inspiration. There is no substitute for speaking from the heart. But there is also a long history of wit and wisdom that may lend a humorous launch pad for your own creativity. I’ve collected some of my favorites over the years, and you are welcome to view them here

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