How to give an occasional speech to family or friends

We are sometimes called upon to make that toast to a parent, child, sibling, friend on that special birthday occasion.

In order to make your speech to that special person, here are a few tips.

If you are making the toast, make sure everyone has their drink before you start. It’s an embarrassment if people pretend to toast with an empty glass or no glass.

Make sure everyone can see and hear you. If it’s a big crowd, you may need a mike. If it’s in a home, you may need to stand between two rooms and face left and right.

Get all these logistics fixed before you start. And make sure the person you are toasting is ready. (he/she may need to grab their speech.)

Get everyone’s attention before you start. Some people tap a glass or the mike. Give people time to sit or find their spot and then begin.

Not everyone may know who you are in relation to the guest of honour, so begin with something like this:

“As Brian’s oldest sibling…”

Or, “Most of you know, I’m Alex’s third wife…”

Next say something that welcomes the guests.

“It’s great to see so many of you have made the effort to be here. I’d like to welcome XXXX from Sydney….

 

Get to the guest of honour quickly. The speech is not about you. It’s about him/her. The best thing is to tell some stories where your friend/relative comes out the hero. Add plenty of adjectives and tell the story in a beat up voice, even mimicking words that were said. When you get to the punch line, pause. Wait for the crowd to laugh, or cry or be moved…

Avoid clichés, like, “He’s always been there for me.” It’s so boring.

Keep your speech short, say three minutes. Don’t be afraid to express your emotions if they are sincere. Saying to a spouse in front of everyone, “I love you.” is special, not clichéd.

Make sure you look at the crowd, even if you need to turn right round to the left and right.

Only talk while looking at them. If you have a lectern, leave the speech on it and address the people. If you have cards, hold them in one hand and practise Ready! Aim! Fire!. That means, you look down, in silence. Look up, in silence. Then talk.

 

Finally, make sure the audience knows when you are about to finish by signalling it. For example, “Before you charge your glasses to George’s health, let me remind you, he has lived 20 years longer than his father, and he’s still going strong.  To George!”

Then drink your own cheer and start the clapping.

 

Judith Field


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