Giving a toast is an honored tradition at special events: weddings, holiday dinners, retirement parties, New Year's Eve and more. But when asked to give a toast, many people waver as public speaking is one of society’s most common phobias, and toasts put the speaker in the spotlight, if only for a brief moment. With these tips you will learn how to give a toast that is successful, heartfelt, and memorable. The type of occasion will dictate the formality of the toast as well as its length and content. A more formal event generally calls for a more sophisticated sentiment, while a casual gathering may prompt a short, spontaneous toast.
Before a toast, the speaker should check that other people are prepared – their wine/champagne glasses are filled, they are paying attention, and the most prominent people (usually whoever is being toasted) are present.
When giving a toast, words are only half the ceremony. The entire presentation is part of the toast, and all eyes will be on the speaker.
When in a group, stand. This guarantees that everyone can see you and helps your voice carry to the crowd. In small settings (a single table, for example), standing is optional.
Clearly pronounce your words without mumbling or rushing.
Limit the toast length – a minute or two at most – particularly if there are other people who will make toasts.
Do not read from a note card or other prompt – the toast should never be so long that you cannot memorize it.
Maintain eye contact. The first and last person you look at should be the individual(s) you are toasting, but always look to the rest of the audience.
Hold your glass at waist height throughout the toast – this is a visual clue that you are indeed giving a toast rather than a prolonged speech.
Do not gesture with your glass. This could create sloshing or spills that would ruin the presentation.
Raise your glass to eye level at the end of your toast in the direction of the person you are addressing. It is acceptable to move the glass slightly to encompass more than one individual.
Avoid cliché phrases such as “here’s to you” or “let’s raise our glasses” and opt for more individualized comments.
The speaker may be the first person to drink; only take a sip of wine/champagne at the end of the toast.
Avoid any potentially hurtful comments -- embarrassing anecdotes, nicknames, or inside jokes – unless the honoree is aware and approves of them beforehand. And lastly, be sincere in your wishes.
A few additional don’ts:
No inside jokes
Never clink a utensil against a glass to gain the attention off the room.
Never hold up an empty glass.
If you are the person(s) being toasted, you never drink following the toast. Just raise your glass as a thank you.