Give the gift of public speaking this holiday season. It’s the time to show your love and appreciation for your family and friends. Here are some tips for proposing a toast:
1. Plan your toast in advance
It might be tempting (particularly if you’ve had a a few drinks) to spontaneously stand up and propose a toast. Your toast will be immeasurably better if you put some thought to it in advance. An unplanned toast can easily turn into a long-winded ramble.
2. Use tidy notes
Too often I’ve seen people at family occasions stand up and peer at a crumpled envelope in their hand. Do use notes – but make them smart eg: a stiff 3×5 card. Make the writing large and bold so that you can read your notes easily. If you need glasses to read, practice with your notes and glasses. You may feel awkward, but if you do it smoothly no-one else will notice.
3. Use a simple three-point structure
As ever a three-part structure is your best friend. Choose three qualities or values that have been important in the lives of your family and friends. Illustrate each quality with a family event or story from the past year. Here’s a simple example:
I’ll talk about the values which have been most important to our family this year.
First perserverance. Perserverance is about keeping going in the face of obstacles. And Bob and Janine you’ve really shown us how to do that with the building of your new house. Well-done for perservering through all the obstacles you’ve had to face to get where you are now. Your perserverance has been an inspiration to us all – can’t wait for the housewarming.
Second love – Caroline and John we enjoyed your wedding so much earlier this year. Thank you for inspiring us all to focus on the love in our relationships.
Third – hard work – Emmanuel showed us the value of hard work in completing his post-graduate degree. Emmanuel worked in his part-time job from 6 am to 11 am every weekday morning and then studied the rest of the time. Congratulations for all your hard work.
I propose a toast – to perseverance, love and hard work.
4. Acknowledge people who are not present
If you’re missing a family member or dear friend, do acknowledge them and the fact that you miss them. Do this at the beginning of your toast, as it may sink people into a solemn mood. As you move to more joyful accomplishments the mood will lighten.
5. Show your emotion
Your family and friends will feel your emotion with you. If you’re concerned that emotion may get the better of you (for example, mentioning a family member who has passed away during the year) practice that part of your toast several times. You’ll find that this gradually reduces the level of your emotion.
6. Keep it short
A long-winded speech before your meal will make your family and friends impatient. A long-winded speech after the meal will send them to sleep. One to two minutes is ideal for a toast.
7. Don’t drink and speak
Don’t rely on alcohol to fuel your courage to speak. If you drink too much before your toast, you’ll lose your judgment. You’ll think your cleverer and funnier than you really are! And then you’re likely to ramble on for far too long. So propose your toast at the beginning of the meal and lay off the alcohol till then.
Here’s to your toast. Cheers!