The moment has arrived. All eyes are on you as you rise and lift your glass. The audience is expecting something profound, or maybe funny, or maybe both. You’re charged with giving the dreaded toast. How do you pull it off without being booed, pitied, or laughed at (for all the wrong reasons)? Here are a few suggestions for writing a good toast.
- Know your audience. This is a key element to keep in mind no matter what you’re writing. But when your audience is right there in front of you, live, it’s even more important than usual. Who are you toasting? What’s the crowd or “the room” like? Is this a formal setting or a casual one? Are the people assembled friends of yours or simply business associates? Is certain language or content off-limits? For instance, if you’re toasting a group of ministers, you will not want to use the same language as you would toasting a stand-up comedian known for her blue humor. Knowing what your audience expects, likes, doesn’t like, and wants to hear will help you write a good toast.
- Remember: there’s no “I” in “toast.” Chances are, if you’ve been asked to do the toast, you are not the subject being toasted. Whether you’re applauding a new couple, the success of a business venture, a family milestone, or even a holiday, make sure the toast doesn’t become “all about you.” For instance, if you are the owner of a new company, don’t get up there and talk about how hard you personally worked – toast the team effort. If you’re the best man at a wedding, then of course make it personal; talk about how and why you love the bride and groom. But don’t turn it into Steve Buscemi’s speech from “The Wedding Singer,” wherein the character goes on and on about his lifelong problems and drug rehab stint, only peripherally mentioning the groom. Of course, that toast is meant to be an exaggeration, but you have probably heard some toasts that come close. As a general rule, don’t use “I” and “me” as often as you use the names of the people you’re toasting. “We” is also a great word to incorporate.
- Keep it brief. Regardless of the occasion, long-winded is never a good idea. Trying to encapsulate a whole relationship or major experience into one toast is not a good idea. Focus on the most important emotions and elements of the day. What are the things you most want to express? Be sure to express them. And consider whether you really need extended anecdotes to make these points. After you write your toast, read it out loud to see how long it takes. If you think it’s too long, you’re probably right. And people listening to your toast will probably think it’s even longer.
- Remember: a toast is meant to be read out loud (or spoken from memory). Sometimes things that sound good on paper don’t always roll easily off the tongue. Another reason to read your toast out loud is to see if you’ve written things that are too much like tongue-twisters, run-on thoughts or just too wordy to work. You may have a great sentiment written down, but find it doesn’t sound so great when it’s read aloud.
A great toast can make an event memorable for all the people there who hear it. To make your toast one of those worth remembering, it just takes a little consideration before you step up to the mic.