How to Deliver the Perfect Wedding Toast

It’s that time of year again, and we thought it would be timely to re-post our popular hints for delivering a winning wedding toast.

You’ve been asked to give a wedding toast, but don’t know where to start.

In case you’re nervous about the prospect, remember that the bride and groom chose you because they trust you, and it’s their way of honoring you.  21477818_sImagine you are telling a story to a group of friends, because you are.

Common Complaints

The most common complaints about wedding toasts are lack of appropriateness and lack of taste. For instance, you don’t want to embarrass yourself in front of the wedding party by talking about how you and your best friend went out drinking.

Another common complaint is droning: going on and on, especially in a monotone voice, putting the audience to sleep. So, to help you craft the perfect toast—one that’s short and sweet, but memorable—here are some questions to ask yourself.

What is Your Purpose In Speaking?

Ask yourself what your goal is. It may be one or more of the following:

  • Pay tribute
  • Give advice
  • Entertain
  • Inspire 

What is Appropriate?

How well do you know the bride and groom? Find out ahead of time whether there’s a topic you should avoid.

  • How “in” should you be? Don’t tell inside jokes or stories if it’s a large wedding—other guests will feel left out.
  • If you don’t know someone well, stick with generalities.
  • Give advice or pick a nice (brief) reading.

Even if you’ve known the couple since you were children, some topics are off limits. If in doubt, consult with the bride or groom in advance.

Other Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Who else is in your audience? Don’t embarrass your best friend in front of the boss, or shock the bride’s elderly grandmother.
  • Is it a large affair or a small one? Smaller weddings are more intimate and guests are more likely to know each other and the couple’s inside jokes.
  • Who are you addressing? (This can be the newlyweds, their families, guests, or a combination of all three)

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be well on your way to crafting a memorable toast.

Putting it Together

Some final advice: Don’t have too much alcohol to calm your nerves prior to the toast. It often doesn’t have the result you’re hoping for. You want to be able to exercise your best judgment.

Explain your relationship with the couple—quickly.

The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll be. Write your toast early (a few weeks before the wedding is a good time to start) and practice. Here’s to a memorable wedding toast!

How to Deliver the Perfect Wedding Toast

It’s that time of year again, and we thought it would be timely to re-post our popular hints for delivering a winning wedding toast.

You’ve been asked to give a wedding toast, but don’t know where to start.

In case you’re nervous about the prospect, remember that the bride and groom chose you because they trust you, and it’s their way of honoring you.  21477818_sImagine you are telling a story to a group of friends, because you are.

Common Complaints

The most common complaints about wedding toasts are lack of appropriateness and lack of taste. For instance, you don’t want to embarrass yourself in front of the wedding party by talking about how you and your best friend went out drinking.

Another common complaint is droning: going on and on, especially in a monotone voice, putting the audience to sleep. So, to help you craft the perfect toast—one that’s short and sweet, but memorable—here are some questions to ask yourself.

What is Your Purpose In Speaking?

Ask yourself what your goal is. It may be one or more of the following:

  • Pay tribute
  • Give advice
  • Entertain
  • Inspire 

What is Appropriate?

How well do you know the bride and groom? Find out ahead of time whether there’s a topic you should avoid.

  • How “in” should you be? Don’t tell inside jokes or stories if it’s a large wedding—other guests will feel left out.
  • If you don’t know someone well, stick with generalities.
  • Give advice or pick a nice (brief) reading.

Even if you’ve known the couple since you were children, some topics are off limits. If in doubt, consult with the bride or groom in advance.

Other Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Who else is in your audience? Don’t embarrass your best friend in front of the boss, or shock the bride’s elderly grandmother.
  • Is it a large affair or a small one? Smaller weddings are more intimate and guests are more likely to know each other and the couple’s inside jokes.
  • Who are you addressing? (This can be the newlyweds, their families, guests, or a combination of all three)

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be well on your way to crafting a memorable toast.

Putting it Together

Some final advice: Don’t have too much alcohol to calm your nerves prior to the toast. It often doesn’t have the result you’re hoping for. You want to be able to exercise your best judgment.

Explain your relationship with the couple—quickly.

The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll be. Write your toast early (a few weeks before the wedding is a good time to start) and practice. Here’s to a memorable wedding toast!

What the Academy Awards can teach us

Academy Awards Oscar statueThis year’s Academy Awards was about glamour, glitz, political statements, and the craft of movie making.  But beyond that, it was a great opportunity to see a multitude of speaking styles in action.

Perhaps one of  the best speeches of the night was Leonardo Di Caprio’s acceptance as best actor.  He gave an impassioned, articulate speech that ranged from thanking his screen collaborators to bridging into the case for global warming when he noted that the film, “Revenant” had to go far south on location to find snow.

Other notable presenters included Eddie Redmayne, whose timing and delivery were impeccable.  And then there was Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke with more energy and passion than I’ve ever seen him deliver, when he talked about sexual abuse.  Louis Gossett Jr. presented a dignified introduction to the “In Memoriam” tribute, while Louis C.K. delivered a wry standup routine (albeit with a little too much hand movement) praising producers of short documentaries.

Some, such as Patricia Arquette, recited in an uninterested-sounding, dull monotone. while others rushed through their presentation, nervously rattling off names of people they wanted to thank.

Reading from a teleprompter, as the presenters did, provides challenges.  They get one run-through rehearsal, and that’s it.

So, what tips can we apply from the Academy Awards when we deliver a presentation?

  •  Whether delivering your presentation from a teleprompter, a script, or notes, always be sure the font size is large enough and legible. You don’t want to squint, trip over your words, or look like you’re reading.
  • Ladies, if you’re wearing new shoes or high heels for any presentation, rehearse in them. Walk in front of a mirror, and notice your stance.  And – this goes for men and women – if you’re wearing a new outfit that you’re not used to, do a dry run-through.  Practice walking at home, look in the mirror and notice how you look.  You want to get used to the way you feel.
  • If using a script, teleprompter, or  notes that you or someone else have written, always familiarize yourself with the text in advance. Practice makes perfect.  When you’re nervous you’re more apt to flub lines, especially if you haven’t studied them.
  • No matter what you’re saying or reading to an audience, find the meaning, and put the passion in it.

You can find many more examples of good – and not so good presentations and acceptances – from the Oscars online.  Use them as a learning tool for your next presentation.  And you, too, may shine like a star!

Ten Speaker Tips From the Opera Stage

Speaking Advice from a famous Artist’s Manager: Ken Benson

Ken Benson

Ken Benson recently presented a master class to opera students at Hunter College.  Mr. Benson is a respected expert in the opera world and a long-time artistic manger.  Mr. Benson was with Columbia Artists Management for 25 years and serves as the in-house consultant to Masters’ students of Vocal Arts at the famed Juilliard School of Music.  Some of the advice he gave young singers applies equally well to speakers.

1)      Don’t be perfect, be expressive.

2)      Know your special qualities and strengths.

3)      Know when something fits you personality-wise.

4)      The first phrase (or sentence) is the most important.

5)      It’s not the quantity (or how long your presentation is), but the quality.

6)      It’s all about how you use words.

7)      Make the speech or presentation your own.

8)      Be genuine and authentic.

9)      Take the audience with you, and create a transformative experience.

10)   Be prepared.

Originally posted August 1, 2014.

Ten Speaker Tips From the Opera Stage

Speaking Advice from a famous Artist’s Manager: Ken Benson

Ken Benson

Ken Benson recently presented a master class to opera students at Hunter College.  Mr. Benson is a respected expert in the opera world and a long-time artistic manger.  Mr. Benson was with Columbia Artists Management for 25 years and serves as the in-house consultant to Masters’ students of Vocal Arts at the famed Juilliard School of Music.  Some of the advice he gave young singers applies equally well to speakers.

1)      Don’t be perfect, be expressive.

2)      Know your special qualities and strengths.

3)      Know when something fits yourpersonality-wise.

4)      The first phrase (or sentence) is the most important.

5)      It’s not the quantity (or how long your presentation is), but the quality.

6)      It’s all about how you use words.

7)      Make the speech or presentation your own.

8)      Be genuine and authentic.

9)      Take the audience with you, and create a transformative experience.

10)   Be prepared.

The Speaking Style of Bill Gates

Bill Gates_WikipediaA recent article in Forbes  lauded the speaking style of Bill Gates, and how he has been able to communicate complex ideas in an understandable way.

Gates knew it would be nearly impossible to encourage stakeholders to take action—or donate their wealth—if he failed to grab their attention and to persuade them to sacrifice for the greater good.

Among the takeaways to help you “grab attention”and “persuade”:

  • Use the “Rule of Three,” and keep your presentation to three major points.
  • Use visuals.  You don’t have to employ fancy graphics; a simple line drawing or chart can do the trick.
  • Use a creative attention-grabber that will surprise the audience.  It can be a prop, an anecdote, a short video, etc.

And here’s my own two cents: Wherever possible, strive to banish buzz words, corporate speak, and jargon from your presentations.  In other words, do as Bill Gates does, and keep it simple.

A Speaker’s First Aid Kit

Photo Credit: Iain Croll
Photo Credit:
Iain Croll

You’ve prepared your presentation and you’re ready to go.  But, wait a minute!

What if you pop a button, or get an attack of dry mouth? What if you find out that your speech has to be adjusted at the last minute? Here’s my recommendation for a quick and easy speaking first aid kit to take with you.

  • Safety Pin in case of wardrobe malfunction.
  • Hard Candy to add moisture to your throat.
  • Bottled water close at hand– in case your host doesn’t provide. 
  • Pen and Paper or index cards (4×6 or 5×7) in case you have to make changes to your presentation.
  • Positive attitude that your presentation will be a success.

Do you have any personal favorites?