Toasting: The Best Opportunity to WOW People in Less than 4 Minutes


You know what a toast is. You know that it should have an intro, body, and conclusion. You know that a toast should leave people with a warm and fuzzy feeling. Can you remember one that WOWed you? Do yourself and your honoree a favor and get your act together! PREPARE for the toast and prepare to gain respect from the people listening. For those not listening: get their attention.

Let’s back up for a second; you DO know what a toast is, don’t you? Toasts happen at more than weddings and fancy pants cocktail parties with a glass of bubbly in your hand. If you are mid or high level manager you’re actually likely to have to give some form of a toast for an employee’s special occasion like a promotion or retirement. Preparing for a toast might seem unnecessary because they usually only last for 2-4 minutes and you can wing it for that long, can’t you?

There are three instances where you should just wing it:

  1. You don’t care about the person receiving the honor
  2. You don’t care that others will totally see that you didn’t prepare, thus concluding that you do not care about the person receiving the honor
  3. You’re asked to give a speech honoring someone during lunch – in 5 minutes

And the reasons that you should prepare:

  1. You do, in fact, care about the person receiving the honor
  2. You do wish to be perceived as a prepared and caring individual
  3. You want to leave both the honoree and the audience with something to remember
  4. You want to gain the respect of all those who are impressed by the thought and time you took to prepare

Just by being in an office environment you have witnessed plenty of toasts, some for retirements, some for special accomplishments, and some you might not even be sure what they were for. Until recently I had never had to give a toast but I’ve been held hostage to a ton of people standing in front of other people saying “blah, blah, blah” and calling it a toast. A lot of the time something that should be a toast is interpreted as some sort of cold status update.

Here’s an example of a good toast: A friend of mine led a toast to her best friend at her wedding with a moment of dancing and singing to gain attention and laughs, then she ended with some touching personal stories that brought some to tears. That’s good toasting stuff and you CAN do it.

You don’t need an example for a bad toast; you see them all the time. A bad or indifferent toast is one that you did not prepare for, you did not say anything personal about the honoree, you embarrassed the honoree, or you said something about a thing they did yesterday but not what they did for the agency for 30 years.

Elements of a good toast (beyond intro, body, conclusion).

  1. Personal stories – how has this person affected you?
  2. Facts – how long has this person worked here, what good things have they done over the years, what are they known for?
  3. Jokes (if appropriate) – people appreciate the opportunity to laugh
  4. Eye contact – practice this, it adds to your trustworthiness and sincerity
  5. Sincerity – if you cannot sincerely get up in front of an audience and speak from the heart about the honoree; you are the wrong person to do it

Toasting is skill everyone should have in their hip pocket. Watch some YouTube or join Toastmasters if you need some help.

Be warned: once you watch a few good toasts on YouTube and give one or two well-prepared toasts, you’re going to be disappointed with 80% of the toasts that happen before you from now on. You’ll know when they don’t care or they’re just winging it.

Have any knock-their-socks off examples or tips for toasting? Share them.

Laura Thorne is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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