Whether you're asked to say a few words at the dinner table or in front of 250 wedding guests, proposing a toast can be stressful. With a little preparation, you can turn your private moment of anxiety into a public moment of shared happiness.
Step 1: Jot down notes Jot down some notes about the person or event you are celebrating. Come up with a personal anecdote that entertains the crowd while complimenting the honoree.
Step 2: Plot outline Plot an informal outline that has a beginning, middle, and end, so you don't end up rambling.
TIP: Don't try to be Chris Rock unless you, too, are known for your joke-telling. Better to be boring than to outright bomb.
Step 3: Practice speech Practice your speech until you are comfortable giving it without notes. Time your delivery until you get the toast under two minutes.
Step 4: Request audience's attention When it's time to deliver your speech, politely request the audience's attention: stand, chime your fork on your glass, and pause for a moment as the crowd stops talking and turns to face you.
TIP: You don't need all eyes on you before beginning, but wait until most audience members have settled down to begin. Otherwise you'll risk half of them tuning in mid-toast.
Step 5: Introduce yourself Begin by introducing yourself and explaining your relationship to the honoree.
TIP: Speak in a loud, clear voice. Nothing will unnerve you faster than having people in the back barking, "We can't hear you!"
Step 6: Make eye contact Make eye contact with the audience during your speech, but end the toast with your eyes on the guest of honor.
Step 7: Raise your glass Raise your glass of bubbly and ask everyone to join you in taking a sip. You've done your job—now relax, knowing that with just a few words, you've made a difference in the life of someone who matters to you.
FACT: Toasting comes from the ancient Greeks, who would have everyone drink from the same goblet so no one would fear being poisoned.