The Toast

by Stephen Boyd | December 31, 2005

One of the best ways to incorporate positive communication in any celebration is to toast the occasion, person, or people involved. The holiday season is an appropriate time to toast the special day, the new year, or the end of a successful year.

A toast is a way to celebrate an important event or person with words, and it's an ancient custom. The practice of giving and receiving toasts was common among the Hebrews in Old Testament times. The word "toast" for this practice originated with the Romans, who browned their coarse bread in a fire. When the bread became too hard to chew, they soaked it in wine. The meaning of "toast" expanded to include the drink in which the bread had been soaked and then the person in whose honor the drink was consumed.

An effective toast gets quickly to the point. Brevity, conciseness, and directness are critical. If you take more than two minutes you have gone on too long. Prepare your toast carefully—you may even want to script it out. If you read it, however, practice so you don't appear to be stuck to your script. Think carefully about your opening, "I propose a toast to Tom to celebrate his retirement." Although you may examine classic toasts, put your own thoughts into the content of of your material. Combine your thoughts with a line from Robert Lewis Stevenson, for example "That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much."

Consider the context of the toast. Is it easy for everyone to stand? Will it be awkward to interrupt people from eating or talking to conduct the toast? Seek to arrange people and surroundings so that the toast is a natural continuation of the festivities.

Always have clearly in mind the name of the person or people you are toasting. Create a flourish as you end. You want people to know when you have finished. Raise your glass at the end of your toast, "clink" with a partner, and take a sip.

Look for reasons to propose a toast. There is not a better way of affirming a person and showing appreciation than the toast. So at the next special event, whether it is a promotion, a birthday, an anniversary, a holiday, or beautiful night or day, plan a toast. A toast well-prepared and carefully planned can be the climax of a fun and memorable event.

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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