Whether at a company party, family celebration, or just a night out with friends, chances are you’ll be hearing a toast or two this holiday season. Toasts might not seem like a big deal, but they are important rituals of connection that bring us together. And if you’re the one in the spotlight, a toast certainly becomes a big deal.
Many people agonize over giving the perfect toast, scouring the Web for the right quote to borrow, trying too hard to be funny, and writing everything down on notecards. What you really need is a simple, memorable process that takes the anxiety out of crafting a toast–a process so simple, in fact, that you could craft a solid toast just minutes before giving it. So if you’ve ever struggled with salutations, read on for a rhythmic remedy to your toasting blues.
In order to give an inspiring toast, you only need to learn one speaking concept: the rhythmic build. Rhythmic builds are repetitions–groups of phrases that incorporate parallel structure to emphasize key points. Not only is repetition easier to remember, repetition makes your speaking sound more natural. When you are passionate about something, you intuitively use rhythmic builds–and a good toast always exudes passion.
Let’s look at an example of the first part of the formula:
Some of you have been with us for many years, and I’m so impressed with your dedication.
Some of you have been with us for just a few months, and I’m so impressed with how quickly you’ve become a part of the team.
And some of you have been with us for just a few weeks, and I’m so impressed with your enthusiasm.
In this example, each sentence has two parallel parts: “some of you have been with us” and “I’m so impressed.” The repetitions create melodies for your audience. Speaking is not writing, so throw out your ideas about repetition being bad. In speaking, you need repetition to emphasize key points; you need repetition to keep your audience engaged.
By using this rhythmic structure, you begin connecting with your audience by talking about them. While we’d all like to believe that our audience cares about us and our insights, we do need to recognize that everyone is most interested in themselves. By talking about them, you have their attention immediately.
You begin the next rhythmic build by talking about why you’re celebrating. This part is the core of your toast; remind everyone why you’ve come together. Here’s how it could look:
So today, let’s celebrate how far we’ve come on our journey together.
Let’s celebrate not just the company’s success, but our individual successes.
And let’s celebrate the fact that we have nothing but a bright future to look forward to.
To close, you end with–you guessed it–one last rhythmic build (I told you it was going to be simple). Here is one way you could end, with an aspirational look to the future:
So raise your glasses and join me as we look forward
to new challenges,
to new successes,
and to new friends!
It’s simple. It’s repetitive. But that’s the point: By sticking to a structure like this, you’ll find it impossible to fall into some of the pitfalls people experience when giving toasts, like rambling on, forgetting lines, or having a joke fall flat. And when you’re completely unprepared, you’ll have this easy structure to guide you out of panic mode and into memorable moments.
You’ll obviously need to come up with your own content, but stick with this structure: Begin with a rhythmic build that recognizes your audience members, follow it up with a rhythmic build that illustrates what you are celebrating, and end with a rhythmic build that focuses on the future. By implementing this structure, you will feel free to be spontaneous, free to be in the moment, and free to speak from your heart.