The moment is here. The event schedule has been moving along, and now it’s show time – the raising of a glass and the toast to the guest of honor. You stand; you lick your lips; you grab your glass in a sweaty handshake; you open your mouth, and nothing. Your eyes scan the room trying to make contact with someone, anyone, who can feed you an idea or mouth a few words to share. Guests smile back politely, but no one has any ideas either. And then it happens. You hear your, by this time, croaky voice say “Phil, he’s such a great guy. Well, here’s to Phil. Over the lips past the gums look out stomach here it comes!” Humiliation. You make a mental note to update your LinkedIn profile in the morning – “Open to work.”
What went wrong? Well, for one thing preparation. A good toast takes preparation. Not scripting, preparation. No one wants to watch a toastmaster read from a piece of paper. A good toast should be personal, brief, and relatable. Here are some ideas to think about as you prepare to create a good toast.
- What are some positive adjectives that come to mind when you think of the honoree? You won’t want specifically to say these adjectives as a list, but they should help you as you think about Step 2 – share a story or an anecdote.
- Share a story or anecdote. Think back to your adjectives. If, when you think of the honoree, you think “spontaneous” then share the story of the time when he started to air guitar in the elevator while singing off key “Love in an Elevator.” If, when you think of the honoree, you think “generous” then share the story of the time when working late to help the team finish a project before deadline, she talked with and consoled the custodian who just got a cancer diagnosis. The point is to match a story with the key positive characteristics of the honoree.
- Finish with a wish and a hope. Leave the honoree and the audience with a sentence of “may the future hold or bring…” Words have power. Give the honoree and your guests the gift of words that invoke health and prosperity for the days ahead.
And here’s a bonus tip. Remember, the toast usually occurs before the guests commence eating. Be personal, brief, relatable, so the group can get to the real main event – eating!