The Art of Speaking  

How to give a toast at a holiday party?

Public speaking tips

YouTube /Wade Paterson

With the holiday season coming up, there will likely be opportunities to say a few special words to commemorate gatherings of family members and friends.

It's crazy to think, but sometimes we get more nervous about a toast in front of a small gathering of loved ones than we do to give a lengthy speech in front of hundreds of people.

There are a few reasons for that. First, toasts seem spontaneous, therefore, people will probably not expect you to share your thoughts in a formal manner. Second, speaking in front of strangers is usually less intimidating than formally speaking in front of those we care about.

What I love about toasts is they add a special touch to any occasion. Toasts are a memorable way to formally articulate the way everyone is feeling.
In this column, I will share three important things to consider before delivering a toast over the holidays.

1. Pick your timing

Toasts are best delivered early in the evening, after everyone has arrived at the event. If it’s a dinner party, it’s usually best to wait until everyone is seated at the table and regular conversation has begun. Once there is a bit of a pause in the discussion, pick your moment, stand up, and address the group.

Here is an example of an opening to a hypothetical toast someone could deliver who is hosting their family who, let’s pretend, hasn’t been together for years:

“If I could get everyone’s attention, I’d like to say a few words.

“It’s been three years since the last time we were all under one roof. Back then, Sue and John were newlyweds. Now they have a child. Abby was in college and now she has an exciting career. Justin was single and now, well, Justin, you’re still single.

“All kidding aside, I forgot how much I missed gatherings like this until each of you walked through the door earlier this evening. They say family is what makes a house a home, and I certainly feel that this evening.

“Three years is a long time, but seeing you all here this evening confirms it has been worth the wait.
With that in mind, let’s raise our glasses and toast: To family.”

2. Keep it short and sweet

There’s nothing worse than someone who goes on and on during an unsolicited speaking opportunity. Toasts aren’t the time for long, drawn out stories. Instead, aim to speak for one to two minutes. Share a few nice words, perhaps sprinkle in a bit of humour, and try to wrap it up concisely.

The other thing to note is the actual thing you toast to should be short and easy to remember. For example, instead of saying: “Let’s raise our glasses and toast to wonderful family memories that will last a lifetime,” simply say: “Let’s raise our glasses and toast to family.”

The longer the toasting phrase, the more likely people will forget what you’re toasting to and stumble over their words.

3. The host should (usually) toast

In most cases, the host should be the one to deliver a toast.

If you want to give a toast at a party you aren’t hosting, you should definitely check with this host before delivering your own toast. You want to make sure he or she wasn’t planning on saying something, and even if they’re not, they will appreciate you asking before stepping up and doing it.

If you do deliver a toast at an event you’re not hosting, take the opportunity to thank the host before diving further into whatever you’re hoping to say.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Wade Paterson is an award-winning Toastmaster who is passionate about Impactful Communication.

His columns and accompanying YouTube videos are focused on helping others become more confident public speakers and communicators.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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