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Raising a toast? Here are a few tips

Samyukta Bhowmick | January 17, 2005

It was famed self-help guru Dale Carnegie who said, 'There are always three speeches for every one you actually give. The one you practised, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.' 
 
Most of us know how frustrating it is to deliver a staggeringly brilliant speech to the showerhead beforehand, only to have your actual speech peppered by a mind-numbing string of 'ahhs' and 'ums' with an occasional 'er' to break the monotony.

How many times has your boss/ superior asked you to make a presentation and cheer the efforts of your team when you have performed well? It is a common enough scenario in today's workplace.

Or even at a friend's wedding. You are totally new to this scenario. And you have just been asked to make a toast.

Don't worry. We have put together a few snappy tips to make the next occasion much smoother:

~ Know what you are going to say.

This seems obvious. But so many people think they can just shoot a witty, moving toast/ speech off the cuff.

If you are wondering whether you are one of these people, or whether you need something written out, here's a quick rule of thumb: you do need something written out.
 
~ Don't write out a whole speech and just read from it. Use flashcards to remind you of the order in which you want to say what you want to say.
 
~ Make sure you practise often.

This will help you know how long you will be speaking for (ideally, toasts should last only three or four minutes), and how you sound when you are speaking out aloud.

An audience also helps. Ask your mum to sit in, safe in the knowledge that she will be kind.
 
Make sure everyone has a filled glass before you begin.

You don't want people to scramble around for refills after you have taken a deep breath and launched into your speech.
 
~ Face the person you're toasting.

Raise your glass to him/ her.

Look at the person as you make the toast.

After you are done, wave your glass to all and tip it towards the person you are honouring. Or, if you are close enough, clink the recipient's glass.
 
~ Take a sip

Don't down the entire glass, even if the speech didn't go too well. Sit down.

Toasts are far less intimidating than public speeches, since you will usually be speaking to people you know. Therefore, you can (and should), keep it informal, light and personal.
 
If you are giving the toast at a wedding, remember to say something nice about the happy couple and how you know them.

And although he carried it off with great aplomb, don't take any tips from Hugh Grant in Four Weddings And A Funeral.
 
Sudhir Sharma of the Delhi Chapter of Toastmasters' International has a few tips as well: 

1. Know your audience.

Don't use many inside jokes that only you and a few other people share.

No one will have a clue what you are talking about, and many will assume you have had too much to drink.

2. Have a strong opening, something that grabs attention away from other conversations people might be having.

3. Have an open-ended conclusion.

If, despite all these tips, you trip up in the middle, try to laugh and move on.

If you trip up all the way through, cheer up and remember that old Wodehouse gag about public speaking: it is human to 'er'!

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