Making a Toast at a Party

Making a toast at a party is a normal occurance because parties usually honor a person or couple for an accomplishment or milestone. Sometimes, it is a sendoff for a person who is leaving for an extended time or moving away. The party may be welcoming home a person who has already been away and is now back. In any case, these types of celebrations call for toasts, which is a short speech followed by everyone raising their glasses and taking a drink.

If you are asked to speak at a wedding, a welcome-home party or any other celebration, here are some suggestions for a memorable, appropriate and sincere toast.

Step 1: Focus on the Qualities of the Person(s) Being Honored
Take out a piece of paper, and start listing qualities about the guests of honor that make them special. What values do they possess? What characteristics do they display? What do people like and admire about them? Here is a sample list: trustworthy, fun to be around, great role model, modest, sincere, direct, always have the right thing to say, great at bringing people together. Jot down a few ideas on the paper, leaving room between each line for the next step.

Step 2: Brainstorm Examples
For each quality you listed, think of a positive, humorous story about this person that specifically shows how the quality in the person came through. Don't write the whole story-just a few key phrases so you will recall it later. Write the phrases about the story under the quality to which the story refers.

Step 3: Choose One Story
Look over your list of qualities and examples. Choose the best story on your list-the one that really highlights the noteworthy attributes of the person and includes the right amount of humor and feeling. The story should be worth telling, should engage a heartfelt response and should be appropriate for the audience to hear.

Step 4: Write a Compliment That Fits the Occasion
Make a note about how this quality makes the honoree a wonderful person, spouse, friend, co-worker, parent, bride, couple or mentor. The note should also reference the reason for the party. For example, if the reason is a wedding, the note should include how the quality makes the groom/bride a great match for the other. If the party is to celebrate a birthday, the note could express how the quality makes the person a great friend or parent. At this point, emphasize the person's relationship is to you, the one making the toast.

Step 5: Flesh It Out
Now get more paper, or sit at the computer. From your notes, type bullet points for the key points of the speech. Have a beginning ("We are here to honor Joe on his 50th birthday"), go on to name the quality you chose to highlight ("Joe is one of the warmest, most friendly guys I ever met"), tell the story and deliver the compliment.

Do all of this in either outline format or bulleted points. You don't want to read the speech word-for-word because, when people read in public, they lose their natural speech patterns. Good speeches and toasts sound as if they are spoken from the heart. The more you can speak naturally, the better the speech will be. So prepare notes, but not every word you plan to say. Then you can remember the key points, but tell the audience rather than read to them.

Step 6: Write the Toast
Did you think the work you already did was the toast? It wasn't. It was the speech. The toast consists of a two- or three-word salutation at the end which you say when you raise your glass. It could be "To Joe!" or "To a wonderful life together!" or "Happy Birthday and many more!" Whatever it is, it should be short, and other guests will join you and raise their glasses to the person you've just honored in the speech. Chances are, they'll say "Hear, hear!" or repeat your words, so keep it short.

Step 7: Rehearse
Practice the toast speech you wrote a few times before you actually say it so a bad presentation doesn't detract from the great words you're going to say. Consider giving the toast in front of a few friends in advance so you are used to making eye contact instead of reading directly from notes. The more you feel ready, the more naturally you'll be able to give your toast.

In a Pinch?
If the steps above seem too much, or you don't know any good stories about the honoree, and you want to find some things to read, look online. You'll find many good resources that you can adapt to fit your purpose. Also, you may find in lieu of a story a nice poem that reminds you of the person or excerpts from a classic story, famous speeches or quotations that seem particularly appropriate.

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Giving a toast is one of those basic skills everyone should possess. It is, however, a rarely-used skill for most of us; most people aren't often called on to give toasts, which makes it a nerve-racking experience, especially if you are being asked to do so for the first time. Luckily, if you follow some basic rules, chances are that everything will go just great.

Learn what is proper and what is not when it comes to toast etiquette. Toasts are common in weddings, business luncheons or receptions and formal dinner parties.

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Holiday toasts convey warm, entertaining messages that set the tone for holiday gatherings, even the holiday season.

Giving a toast is appropriate at plenty of events, but birthday toasts are a fine time to demonstrate just how great the guest of honor is. Take this time to deliver a meaningful and memorable birthday toast.

Learn how to write a speech, especially a thank-you one, just in case you find yourself having an honor bestowed upon you. You don't want to feel unprepared for a big moment.

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