There is art to giving a toast at an event. It has to be conscientious, poignant and funny (if appropriate) and mesh with the overall theme of the evening. To learn how to strike this delicate balance, we spoke with Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, business writer, writing coach and founder of Syntax Training, a business-writing training company. Gaertner-Johnson has helped clients such as Microsoft, REI and Port of Seattle perfect their writing skills. Here are her toast-writing tips.
» Think about what you might want to say, and write notes on your ideas. Then you can glance at your notes before you stand to speak. You will be ready when all eyes and ears are on you.
» Consider your audience.
» Don’t focus on yourself. A toast is to cel- ebrate others.
» If you are the host or sponsor, mention what an honor it is to look out on the distinguished (gifted, productive, brilliant, supportive, etc.) group surrounding you.
» If you are not the host or sponsor, acknowledge who is. Comment positively on the abundant table, the excellent planning or some other element of the event.
» Use a phrase that brings everyone into the toast, something like: “This is the moment when we honor the team’s successes this quarter” or “Please raise your glass in celebration of our ...”
» Keep it short: no longer than 60 to 90 seconds unless the occasion is formal and you are giving the only toast. In that instance, you may speak for several minutes. But if dinner is waiting to be served or eaten, be respectful and keep it brief.
» If a series of toasts is taking place, feel free to speak only a sentence, such as “To Jeffrey, who catches every bug before our customers do,” or “To our engineers, people who listen to all of our problems and then solve them.”
» Use humor if you feel comfortable with it, but avoid sarcasm. A toast is an upbeat message. It should not snipe.
» Explain references to people and events that some guests may not recognize. Identify people with phrases like “our director” or “our biggest client.”
» Feel free to use or build on other toasts or famous quotations, like this: “Famous inventor Thomas Edison said, ‘Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.’ Despite their gorgeous suits and dresses, our sales team recognizes every opportunity and runs with it.” Search the Internet or a book of quotations for suitable lines to build on.