There are occasions when you want to say a few words to commemorate a person or event, but you don’t want to give a speech. Company parties to celebrate the holidays, a respected colleague’s retirement, a major accomplishment, a merger — all call for some acknowledgement. If the mood is festive — especially if food and drink are being served — a drawn-out, formal speech may be entirely unwelcome.

At such times, consider proposing a toast.

Here’s how to propose a toast.

1. The Introduction

Make sure that everyone has a full glass. (Remember that not everyone drinks alcohol.)

Stand in some prominent place and get people’s attention.

Hold you own glass in front of you a little above waist level.

Introduce yourself briefly, if you aren’t already known by everyone present. Say something about why you’ve gathered. Are you celebrating a successful project or period of time? A recent win? A newly formed partnership? The achievement of a big goal? Or are you honoring a particular person for what he or she has done? Say so.

Keep these introductory remarks brief — no longer than a minute to a minute and a half.

2. The Wish

Raise your glass to eye level.

State a hope or a wish for the future of the person being honored or for the parties gathered at the event. Use the subjective form, “May…”

Make it no more than two or three sentences. Keep your remarks in the spirit of the event, appropriate to the mood of the gathering. Don’t be light and breezy at a formal gathering or stiff and serious at a casual event.

3. The Toast

Raise your glass overhead.

In three or four words name the person, persons, or occasion being honored, “To…” If you keep it short, people will repeat the toast.


4. An Example

As a speech coach and consultant, I’d like to propose a toast to you.

Getting up in front of an audience to say a few words can be a nerve-racking endeavor. It is not for the faint of heart or the timid. And yet, whether by your own choosing or at someone else’s request, you are about to do precisely that — to stand in front of a formal gathering and propose a toast.

So here’s my toast. May you be charming and gracious. May your words warm the hearts and amuse the minds of those you toast. And may the good wishes you share come back to bless you.

To you.

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See also How to Give a Speech.

Chris Witt, a coach based in San Diego, works with executives and with technical experts who want to give more effective presentations. If you’re interested in learning more about how you could benefit from his coaching, contact him for a complimentary call.