7 Ways to Make the Perfect Toast

America’s number one fear is talking in public, towering above fears like ninjas, death, and sharks. Which is a shame because while words may not make a man, they certainly help. Follow these tips to deliver the perfect toast, that’s not too long, not too silly, and with just enough sentiment.

Whether it’s a wedding, corporate party, or even a Holiday dinner with friends, toasts are a great way to commemorate a get-together. With just a raise of a few glasses, an otherwise mundane event can suddenly turn meaningful for just a brief moment in time. Toasts remind friends, family, and coworkers why they continue to get together for the special occasion they are celebrating.

However, we’ve all seen bad toasts that simply make you squirm, where you count the “um’s” and stare in bewilderment as a human being slowly crashes and burns. You can’t do anything to stop it, except drink heavily and be glad it’s not you. But at some point, it could be you. You never know when someone might ask you to make a little speech at a festive gathering.

Here are 7 ways to make your next toast the one of the party:

1. Stay Sober

While one drink might help you relax enough to get up in front of a bunch of your colleagues or friends and talk, two or more might make you slur your words when you take the mike. There’s nothing worse than dozens of pairs of blinking eyes and an awkward silence. Plus, if you are slurring your words and you say something funny, some will think you were only that humorous because you were loaded. This is also known as the “Aerosmith Clause” — where you were only inspired while you were under the influence.

Instead of a gin and tonic, reach for a water instead.

2. Be Witty and Don’t Be Afraid to Make a Jab at the Expense of Others

One of the key elements to a good toast is being clever. The desired result of a successful toast is for someone in the audience to say, “What a character! I want him at my next party!” If the toast is about one person in particular, jot down a list of humorous stories and pick the one you feel sums up the person in one anecdote.

Especially at weddings, it’s okay to be playful. Even at funerals, sometimes making a toast about a funnier time in the deceased’s life makes family and friends reflect on happier times, dispelling their grief if only for a few moments.

3. Keep It Short — This isn’t the Oscars

Nobody wants to hear the story of your life, or anyone else’s for that matter. Keep it within five minutes, enough to lure them in, make them laugh/cry, and then send them on their way. If they wanted to hear a sermon, they would have gone to church.

Some of the best toasts are just a couple of sentences that drive a point home.

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4. Stay Focused

If you’re making a Christmas toast at a corporate event about your favorite Holiday gift and start talking about how your father never loved you, there are gonna be a lot of awkward coughs and stares. With entertainment and technology destroying human attention spans, it’s getting harder and harder for people to stay on task.

Therefore, talking about only one thing, one story will keep people from straying away toward other thoughts like, “Did I forget to buy Bobby a Wii this Christmas? Do you think he’ll think less of me as a father? I wonder if Harry Chapin had a bad father relationship based on the song ‘Cats and the Cradle’? Or was it Jim Croce that sang that song?”

5. Be Original — No One Wants to Hear “Get R Dun”

The worst possible thing you can do is simply quote other people’s material or old shtick. For example, do not get up in front of an audience and read a list of life conundrums you get in chainletters via the Internet, like “Why do you drive on a parkway and park in a driveway?” or “Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?” If the toaster manages to relate these ponderisms to something worthwhile, kudos. If he or she manages not to look like a complete tool, double kudos.

6. If Possible, No Notecards

A number of people propose toasts with notecards. While they always get in everything they want to say, it often looks too forced and rehearsed. How kick-ass would it look to speak without referring to an index card, unlike your seventh grade presentation on stink bugs?

As nerve-racking as this can be, it’s just a matter of relaxing while maintaining control. Memorize your talking points and go from there. Also, if possible, a quick run-through before showtime never hurts, whether it’s in your head or aloud. Just to make sure it flows well and your pacing isn’t off.

7. Customize Your Send-off

At special events that require toasts, people are often gathered from different families, cultures, and communities. Everyone has an ethnic heritage, whether it be Irish, Native American, Polish, or Greek. Offering a traditional message based on one’s ethnicity can be a memorable cap for any social occasion.

While toasts are memorable, they aren’t lasting. Eventually, people will move on to other drinks and conversations, and your toast will be long gone from their mind. Sometimes, the testament of a good toast is one you cannot recall. However, either way, toasts are still an integral part of any event providing alcohol, giving people a reason to drink and be merry. Alla Salute!

Megan McLachlan currently resides in the Pittsburgh area where she freelance writes, drinks coffee, and obsesses over popular culture. She was an English major, but doesn't think she wasted her life. Yet. Her blog is megoblog.com.

  • Nathan

    Also, don’t toast frozen bread. Let it thaw first.

  • http://www.filmschoolrejects.com Doc Brown

    Cue the rimshot.

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    @ Nathan: How to toast bread, now there’s an article idea! ;)

  • Korbi Gografe

    Dear Ms. McLachlan:

    I’ve enjoyed your article. Maybe I can inspire you to write another article about etiquette in regards how to drink wine. As an example, I am finding that most people don’t really know how to hold a wine glass properly. There are still people who choose wine glasses not only by looks but also by sound. However, to obtain a good sound when toasting one has to hold the glass by its stem.

    I am looking forward to your next article, Korbi