A mini presentation that the vast majority of us likely have to make at one time or another is the Toast.
Whether it’s at a family gathering, or at a send-off for a friend or co-worker, this mini-speech is one where we want to make the best impression possible: on the person or group being saluted with the Toast, and on attendees who depend on us to elevate the occasion with our words and gusto.
Circumstances where a Toast is desirable are innumerable.
Weddings and are held throughout the year, typically with multiple Toasts during receptions. Similar chances arise at retirement parties and graduations. December may well be the apex for opportunities, given for many there are seasonal get-togethers before the holidays, plus others large and small during the holidays leading up to New Year’s Eve.
Even if alone one may want to light up the scene with a Toast – or perhaps practice for an occasion coming up.
Thus, while light shines on the person making the Toast only briefly, the ‘pressure’ is on to make this time in the limelight well spent. In that sense, many who fear public speaking in general, as a corollary also fear this smaller version.
In Toastmasters, one of the first roles in many meetings is giving a Toast.
Often, it’s made a little more challenging by being expected to tie into a weekly theme. If there’s no theme, or one of general nature, ex. ‘A Salute to Spring’, the scope is wide enough for easing into one’s subjective interpretation. However, in our club we’ve had meeting themes such as ‘Talk Like a Parrot’ or ‘Gingerbread Houses’ – these can be serious comfort zone, not to mention creative, challenges.
According to an article in the current month edition of Toastmaster magazine, there is a lot of background to the act of giving Toasts.
The common link is the history of raising one’s glass at assemblies.
As far back as ancient Rome, “the Senate passed a decree requiring all citizens to toast the health of Emperor Augustus at every meal”. Using the term “toast” apparently dates back to the 16th century, when a real slice of toast was placed in wine before being consumed; it helped make the taste experience, given the undependable quality of wines, easier to swallow. The role of a “toastmaster”, or toast steward, dates to the early 1700s.
Like with other speaking roles, there are a number of tips to help make the Toast experience less likely to catch in one’s throat:
- Take advantage of timing, especially when there is a lot of energy in the room, while sensitive to the leadership of the host/hostess; of course, the Toast may be directed to him or her
- Focus on and develop one theme
- Tap into common interests
- Keep in mind it’s more effective to speak from the heart than from a script
- Keep it relatively short
- Consider having a Toast formula (material) with you at all times, i.e. be prepared; this is especially valuable if one is exposed to a wide variety of social events
- Consider whether the situation is a formal vs. an informal one; if the former, some preparation is advisable
- If in an international environment, know how to say “Cheers!” in local language
Here’s to some memorable Toast-ing all year long!