How to Give a Toast

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Giving a toast is sometimes requested of a person ahead of time (the best man at a wedding), and is other times spontaneous (a dinner table toast to the host or hosts of a party). In all cases, a toast speech is meant to honor the subject of the toast. Careful preparation and an understanding of the objective of your toast make it a memorable moment during an already special occasion.

  • Avoid an abundance of first-person anecdotes. Many speakers giving a toast fall into the trap of speaking as though it's "their" moment. Don't follow their lead. Use a wedding toast as an example. A wedding toast should celebrate the lifelong commitment of two people to one another and the two people themselves; it should not be a recounting of your personal experiences with the newlyweds. Funny or touching third-person stories about the couple would be fine, as would poignant lyrical thoughts about love and commitment. It's possible to get away with personal stories involving the couple if they illustrate something positive about the couple that the rest of the audience could relate to and appreciate.

  • Use humor appropriately. Seldom is toasting done for solemn reasons. Toasts are almost always celebratory in nature, and so humor is a welcome and appropriate part of a toast. Your toast shouldn't be all jokes, or it will seem like a stand-up comedy routine. It also shouldn't be too serious, or it will bring down the celebratory energy in the venue where you're speaking.

  • Keep your toast short. Toasts are an expected part of many occasions. However, toasts can also be an enjoyable and memorable part of those occasions if they're handled with care by the speaker. One of the most important parts of that handling is the length of the toast. Any audience will become fatigued after a solid five minutes of listening to you give a toast. It's unnecessary, and it makes you look as though you're trying to upstage the celebration rather than giving voice to it. Two or three minutes is enough time for a speaker to give a good toast that will say whatever it needs to say without dragging on.

  • Write your toast out. There are some great orators in the world who can consistently give improvised speeches that are eloquent, focused and powerful. However, these people represent a minority. A purely improvised speech (and the speaker giving it) will usually come across as unfocused, long-winded and inarticulate. Write your toast down, so you can edit, practice and memorize/read it.

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