The humble toast – for something meant to be quick and light it can really present a challenge. A great toast can make hearts swell and leave you drowning in praise and free drinks. A bad one, well, we’ve all seen the movie Bridesmaids – it can get pretty awkward.
A successful toast has three key elements – they should be short, sweet and engaging. Keep it short and under three minutes – anything longer is a speech that ends with a drink – which we’ll all need if you keep waffling on. Make it sweet by ensuring your audience and subject are left feeling acknowledged and special. And you’ll use detail and humour to keep it engaging and upbeat.
Here’s how we get there.
1 Welcome and intro
In two sentences you should be able to welcome your guests to the event, acknowledge the event and how beautiful/special/wonderful it is, and introduce yourself. This is quick draw and definitely not about you. Other than ‘Hi, I’m…’ avoid the use of ‘I’ and ‘me’.
2 Who or what are we toasting and why?
This is where you explain the object of your toast and use it to bring the room together. The key here is to explain why this person or function is worthy of our time. Simply stating that its ‘Jen’s 30th and we’re here to celebrate!’ is so boring. Not only did you just lose your audience, but how do you think Jen feels?
But explaining that, ‘It’s Jen’s 30th and whilst she’s still single, has excessively expensive taste and one too many cats, we’re here to celebrate her 30th birthday, her zest for life and her unwavering friendship,’ is much more interesting. Detail draws the crowd in and shows thought and effort.
3 Tell me a funny story about the subject of the party
Now that we’ve set the context, we add a little story to build on the subject matter and bring the audience in on the joke.
Choosing a relevant story is the hardest part – the key is to make sure it links back to your subject matter identified in step 2 and includes lots of detail. For example, at Jen’s 30th we’re celebrating what a good friend she is, so you might like to tell people the story of how you became friends.
Facts alone won’t do this story justice though, so make sure you embellish and dish the details for comedic relief. Telling everyone you ‘met at uni and we’ve been besties ever since’, is not nearly as interesting as explaining that ‘our friendship was born over spilled coffee. I knew Jen was special when she immediately gave me her own jumper, said “Don’t worry! I have a spare in the car,” and came back in Marc Jacobs looking better than before.’
Just keep in mind the first key element of success – the time limit.
4 The actual toast
This is your jab-hook combo – a tug at the heart strings and a final laugh to end strong. The jab: ramp up the warm and fuzzies with a heartfelt acknowledgement and a genuine wish for the future. Make it thoughtful, make it count.
Then, just as the room is caught up in the hugs, add a funny hook that links back to an earlier detail to end upbeat. Tell Jen, ‘We all wish you nothing but love and happiness in your future – and if it’s not with an actual man, there’s always shoes… and cats.’
A final cheers and you my friend, just pulled off a killer toast.