St. Patty’s is Wednesday, and that’s a great time to raise a glass and toast health, happiness, or whatever else is on your mind. But, so is any other day! Giving a toast is a great way to unite a table, a room, or even just yourself with a special lady friend. But it’s no simple matter to give a good toast. Like many art forms, the things that seem simplest and most obvious are often finely-tuned skills pared down to the bare essentials after much practice, practice practice. Toasting is no different, but we’re certainly able to point you in the right direction. 

Giving a toast is often, at least to a degree, and impromptu event. Certain toasts, of course, are planned, such as a best man speech. But, even then, if Uncle Irwin puts his $#%@ in the mashed potatoes at the reception, you better be able to improvise and appropriately cutting quip about it. We talked with Toastmasters International about what you need to know to give an effective toast today and going forward. 

Daniel Rex, Executive Director of Toastmasters International 

How is giving a toast different from other forms of public speaking?

A toast is more interactive than most forms of public speaking. The speaker usually asks everyone to rise and raise their glasses. In doing so, they are joining in – not just to the fun of the event, but also to the spirit of the message. Given that, it’s important to offer a toast that everyone in the group can feel good about. A popular one, for example, is, “May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light, may good luck pursue you each morning and night.” To which, the crowd clinks glasses, cheers a hearty “Here, here!” and enjoys the moment with the speaker.

What is the single biggest mistake people make when giving a toast? 

When the speaker forgets that other people are taking part in the moment. The toast may be too personal or even controversial for a crowd. Another common mistake is speaking too quietly. A speaker in a crowded restaurant, for example, must project her voice enough to reach the entire audience.

What’s important about St. Patty’s toasts as opposed to, say, a birthday or a casual toast?

It’s said that on St. Patrick’s Day, the entire world is Irish. Beyond being a celebration of Irish traditions, it is an opportunity to recognize the simple joys of a festive event – the humor, fun and food – enjoyed with family and friends. A St. Patrick’s Day toast is a celebration of what we all enjoy about life.

Is it better to memorize a toast or go off the cuff, in general?

Impromptu speaking requires skill and familiarity with the audience. It’s always best to be prepared with some personal and witty remarks; you can always add off-the-cuff comments if you want to. Memorizing the words will also keep you from rambling, a common problem with toasts. Raise you glass, say the words, and enjoy the cheerful moment together. Then sit down!

Favorite Irish toast, courtesy of Toastmasters’ past International President Ted Corcoran, of Dublin, Ireland:

“May there always be work for your hands to do;
May your purse always hold a coin or two;
May the sun always shine on your windowpane;
May a rainbow be certain the follow each rain;
May the hand of a friend always be near you;
May God fill you heart with gladness to cheer you.”
                                    –Traditional Irish Blessing

More Tips

Stand up straight: Use what your mamma gave you and straighten out that spine. Not only will you cut a more imposing figure, but people are more inclined to listen to a speaker with authoritative posture.

Don’t do a brain dump: When it comes to toasting, speed kills. Even if Especially if you’re not sure what you’re going to say next, take your time. Dramatic pauses can work to your advantage. See?

Speak to your audience: Not, like, in their general direction (though, you should do that, too). You need to keep one eye on who you’re speaking too and one eye on your talking points. If Grandma Ursula is there, she may or may not get your reference to Jersey Shore. If she does: coolest grandma ever. But the odds are against her. 

Be brief: If you’re giving a toast, you’re almost certainly at a social gathering of some kind, and a long toast is going to throw a monkey wrench into the gears that are keeping it moving. From Toastmasters.org: “No toast except his own should last longer than 60 seconds” was Mark Twain’s golden rule.

Make it personal: Unless your toasting a large group of strange man-drinkers (like on St. Patty’s), try and personalize the toast. This can even be as broad an act as choosing the most appropriate from the below Irish toasts. The one about going to hell for your most sin-filled buddy, as a for instance.

End brightly: No matter what you settle on, you need to end on an upswing that rhetorically matches the raised nature of your glasses. It brings the toast to a balanced, positive end.

Irish Toasts

May the grass grow long on the road to hell for want of use.

May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door.

May you live to be a hundred years with one extra year to repent

Here’s to you and yours and to mine and ours.  And if mine and ours ever come across you and yours, I hope you and yours will do as much for mine and ours, as mine and ours have done for you and yours.

May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies, quick to make friends.  But rich or poor, quick or slow, may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.

May the face of every good news and the back of every bad news be towards us.

May the roof above us never fall in, and may we friends gathered below never fall out.

May you be forty years in heaven before the devil knows you’re dead!

St. Patrick was a gentleman, who through strategy and stealth, drove all the snakes from Ireland.  here’s a toasting to his health; but not too many toastings, lest you lose yourself and then forget the good St. Patrick and see all those snakes again.

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