Giving a toast is never easy. Making it interesting, heartwarming, or funny? Not exactly a walk in the park. So we enlisted the help of Mike Sacks, author of Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today's Top Comedy Writers to guide us through the do’s and don’ts.
time it right
Always go first–or as close to first as possible. But if there’s a hard and fast rule, it’s this: Give the toast after drinks but before food digestion. Also: Make it happen before people start to leave.
get the crowd’s attention
Clinking a spoon or knife against a glass helps. It's also important to keep in mind the sort of glass one holds in the air. Crystal is good. A plastic cup featuring a cartoon character from a convenience store is not so good. Make sure that there are no lipstick stains on the glass, especially if you are male and your date is not wearing lipstick.
set the scene
Begin with a brief description of who you are and what your relationship is to the rest of the attendees. It will help to explain why exactly you took the initiative to stand before everyone and waste a few minutes of their time. A carefully vetted joke could work, as long as it’s not about politics, healthcare, or how obnoxious the children are who keep interrupting you.
Brevity and humor. When it comes to humor, the margin of error is very thin. There’s always at least a 25 percent chance that you’ll offend at least one side of the room. Think of humor as a fine spice, like chile powder. Okay, maybe not so fine. Remember that a little goes a long way. Keep the humor simple. When in doubt, be earnest and not glib. This is not a roast.
choose one story, maybe two
Don't overdo references to the past, present, and future. Keep the anecodotes short and light.
know when to call it quits
First up? You can run a bit long, but the toast should never last more than two minutes. If you’re deep in the order of toast givers, it should last no longer than thirty seconds. This is not a speech before the United Nations. This is also not a speech defending your innocence before a jury. Nothing hinges on this toast–besides your reputation for being boring, of course.