Before you raise a glass, take a few tips from a seasoned amateur
I would like to propose a toast. To all of the hosts, hostesses, best men, fathers of brides, award givers, award receivers, guests of honor, CEOs, and anyone else who will ask us during this holiday season to raise a glass and join them in a toast, I humbly offer these five tips.
Be brief, dear friends, be brief.
A toast is a sprint, not a marathon. It is a roundabout that quickly and efficiently brings you to your point, not a mountain highway that twists and turns and loops with no foreseeable end. A toast is not an acceptance speech, and there will be no subtle strings of an orchestra to gently indicate your time is over. A good rule of thumb? If your toast outlasts the bubbles in the Champagne, it’s too long.
At the risk of breaking rule number one, a toast is not a one liner.
While “Skoal” or “To Your Heath” or “Cheers” is fine for an impromptu clinking of glasses, an official toast should not, to use a phrase, climax prematurely. You have a captive audience, which is a rare treat, so don’t let them off too easy. Take a little time and show them what you’ve got. Aim for that infinitesimal sweet spot that lies between saying too much and too little. I know this is much easier said than done. But for a toast, think in terms of song lengths, and shoot for something more “Happy Birthday” than “Freebird.”
Unless you are one of those rare individuals who can summon their muse at the drop of a hat, I implore you to prepare your words well before you are set to speak. Write them down if you have to. I dare say, it’s better to read your toast off of a 3-by-5 card than stammer and pause like you’re trying to talk your way out of a ticket.
This is a toast, not a roast. Trust me, your audience is not interested in your stand-up routine. Instead impress them with your candidness. Inspire them with your sincerity. Be generous, gracious, and kind. At its most pure, a toast is a wish, so wish your toastee well and the gods of public speaking will reward your efforts.
Toast with a clear head.
There’s a reason a toast is said with a full glass rather than an empty one. If you’re scheduled to make a toast, get it over with before the indulgences of the event take hold. The rambling, slurred toasts at the end of party are certainly entertaining but usually remembered for all of the wrong reasons.
So here’s to you, dear toasters. May your words be kind, concise, and well-received. And may health, happiness, and good fortune shine upon you always. Bottoms up!