We get all sorts of requests from clients and friends, seeking our help with upcoming presentations, interviews, big sales pitches, or important conversations at work. But sometimes, the requests we get go far beyond the work place. I get asked all the time to help people with the wedding toast they have to give. I even was asked once, by a workshop participant, to help him draft a wedding proposal. Yep… I was approached during one of the coffee breaks, and was asked if I could help him draft his proposal. True story!
It is wedding season, so let’s get back to the topic du jour. Many people dread giving a wedding toast. It is an honor to give one, most of the time, but it is big, public, someone is almost certainly recording it, and if you mess it up, you become one of those stories. We all have been there at a wedding and heard the train wreck toast. And that train wreck becomes a funny story that gets told among friends over and over… forever. In addition to the train wreck story, we have also heard countless toasts that are just blah. There is nothing wrong with them, but there is nothing memorable. So how do we avoid the train wreck AND the blah?
Here are a few simple pieces of advice:
- Make it personal. Tell a story, but make sure the story connects to a larger message about the person or the couple. Speak from the heart.
- Avoid inside jokes at all costs. If most of the crowd has no idea what you are talking about, then guess what? Most of the crowd will think it is terrible.
- Don’t share anything embarrassing. It might be funny to you and your crew, but remember that there are grandparents in the room, parents, young cousins, nieces or nephews, and lots of friends who probably don’t know the story about that night in Cabo. And should never know.
- Don’t start off by saying “I will be brief.” Everyone who has ever started off with this line, wasn’t brief. As soon as I hear “I will be brief,” I immediately pour myself another glass of wine, and get comfortable… we are going to be there for a while.
- In terms of length, it is almost impossible to be too short. No one has ever heard a toast and said “that was great, I just wish it was a lot longer.” The clock moves quickly when you are speaking in public. Target about three minutes. If you target for three, you may go five. And five is fine. But much more than that gets a bit long.
- Remember, it isn’t about you. Make it about the couple, not you. If the entire toast revolves around you, then you will have missed the entire point of giving a toast at someone else’s wedding.
- Don’t get overly emotional. The crowd will love to see some emotion. But if you go over the top, it gets uncomfortable very quickly.
- Don’t wing it. No one on this planet… and I mean no one… is better when they wing it. Prepare. And practice a little.
- Don’t get too drunk ahead of time. Enough said.
- Finally… remember that it is an honor to speak at someone’s wedding. Treat it as such. You are part of their wedding day experience, forever. That is special!
That’s about it for today. It is wedding season. And if your number gets called to give a toast, take a deep breath and think it through.
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