Being asked to present a toast is both a great honor and a very serious responsibility. Your words need to be meaningful, memorable, and heartfelt. To make your toast epic, it needs humor. To keep the audience happy, it needs to be brief.
Keep It Brief
We’ve all seen toasts given in movies and on television. They can be succinct, uplifting, and inspiring. Or they can seem to go on forever, with a litany of bad jokes and much more personal information than you care to know. Vanessa Van Edwards, author of “Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With People” said to keep it punchy. According to Van Edwards, an audience decides if they enjoy the toast or not within the first seven seconds.
No Surprises, Please!
There certainly are people who can deliver a legendary toast on demand, but most of us need to prepare in advance. Consider the event and who will be in attendance. If you’re presenting a toast to newlyweds with several generations of their family in attendance, take care to not offend anyone with information that’s too personal. Grandma doesn’t need to know what her favorite grandson did in Cabo on spring break or that her sweet granddaughter has a secret tattoo.
Make It About Them, Not You
A toast is a performance, so make sure the audience enjoys it. Tell an engaging story about the person or people being honored. Here’s an example: “Griselda is much more than my big sister—she’s my personal hero and makes everything an adventure. When she taught me how to drive, she borrowed Mom’s car without telling her—sorry, Mom—and taught me how to parallel park and do donuts. Let’s lift a glass to her on this happy day!”
Don’t Add Alcohol
Drunk toasting is just as bad as drunk texting, but with a much wider audience. If it takes a few drinks to loosen your inhibitions so you can speak in front of an audience, you might want to politely decline. Humor is another potential pitfall. Not everyone can tell a joke well in normal conversations, so they shouldn’t try to do so in a toast. However, if you’re naturally funny, keep the material clean and inoffensive.
Don’t Read It
Even the most gifted public speaker’s voice takes on a monotonous tone when reading aloud, negating any charisma you may normally exude as your stories or jokes fall flat. Any toast that’s too long to be memorized and that must be written down is a toast that’s too long. An index card with one- or two-word bullet points can keep you on track. Find friendly eyes in the audience and speak to them from your heart.