Wedding season is launching into full gear, which means there will be thousands upon thousands of toasts given in hotel ballrooms and VFW halls around the country. And unfortunately, the vast majority of those toasts will be terrible, because most people have no idea how to give a toast. Not only that, but 74 percent of Americans suffer from glossophobia — the fear of public speaking. So in addition to making toasts that are too long, unfunny, and impossible to follow, toasters are doing so while stammering and flop sweating. But your next great toast doesn’t need to be that way. After you read this list of tips we compiled, people will be toasting your toast … or at least not throwing stuff at you.
TIP #1: BE PREPARED
Mark Twain’s golden rule for toasts was, “No toast … should last longer than 60 seconds.” You’ll most likely exceed the one-minute mark, which is fine, but depending on the occasion, you probably don’t want to speak for more than three or four minutes. All the rules of good public speaking apply (make eye contact, talk slowly, etc.). Practice a few times in front of someone to help you lock down what you want to say and how you want to say it.
TIP #2: BE AN AUTHORITY
You’re basically assuming the role of an expert on whomever or whatever it is you’re toasting. So act like you know it front to back. The groom? Tell people amusing — but not overly embarrassing — stories about him that most of them don’t know. A holiday? Throw in a fun fact or traditional salutation. People won’t remember your entire speech, so offer them something interesting to take away from it.
TIP #3: PLAY TO YOUR AUDIENCE
You may be the one with the mic in your hand, but your toast shouldn’t be all about you. For instance, if you’re toasting a buddy in front of a large group of people, you can’t just say, “Hey John, remember the time we spilled paint all over your dad’s rug?” It may make you and John laugh, but that’s not an actual story, and the rest of your audience will just feel annoyed and left out. And unless you make a living doing impressions, you probably don’t want to do any impressions.
TIP #4: KEEP IT CLEAN
There’s a fine line between a playful joke and a completely inappropriate story that makes everyone uncomfortable and/or cry. If you’re not sure where your anecdote falls, you probably shouldn’t tell it. Save the dirty jokes and off-color ball busting for when you’re alone with your friends, and make sure your toast won’t really offend the most conservative person in the room. Like that total buzz kill, Grandma.
TIP #5: END ON A POSITIVE NOTE
No matter what the nature of your toast, try to leave people with an occasion-appropriate, happy thought. If you’re doing a wedding toast, end with a warm and fuzzy sentiment about the bride and groom, even if most of your speech involved you making fun of the groom. If you’re giving a toast at a family function, suggest everyone remember how great Grandma was (even though she was actually a total buzz kill).
TIP #6: ASK PEOPLE TO RAISE THEIR GLASS
It sounds like a no-brainer, but a lot of people forget to actually propose a toast. And according to Toastmasters International, the act of raising and/or clinking a glass is what makes people feel included in the ceremony. So by getting the crowd to lift up their glasses and cheers, you’re inviting everyone to be pals for the night.