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12 Tips for Making a Top-Notch Toast

This New Year's Eve you may be inspired (or asked) to raise your glass and toast to the new year. (Hopefully before your 8th glass of champagne.)

To keep you from making it your first truly embarrassing act of '08, I consulted etiquette expert, Diane Gottsman of the The Protocol School of Texas, along with authors John Bridges' and Bryan Curtis' book Toasts and Tributes, to gather some fundamental toasting tips that'll help make your tribute memorable. For the right reasons. Cheers!

1 - Plan Ahead.
If you know you are going to say something at an event or party — or even if you think there is a possibility you may be asked - plan what you are going to say. And rehearse it. Spontaneous works in certain situations, but not when toasting.

2 - Wait For Everyone.
Never begin a toast until everyone has a glass of at least some liquid.

3 - Stand Up.
Toasting when seated can send the wrong message. Like a lack of respect for the person you are toasting, a sense of insecurity in yourself, and a disregard for your audience's ability to see and hear you. Get up out of your chair. An exception would be if the toast is taking place in a crowded public restaurant.

4 - Raise Your Glass.
And don't hold it in front of your face. Hold your glass high, or extend it in the direction of the person you are toasting.

5 - Wait For Everyone Again.
Wait for everyone to raise their glasses before beginning your toast.

6 - Make Sure It's a Glass.
Since a toast is usually for a celebratory situation, it calls for at least moderately formal glassware. Champagne, wine and cocktail glasses all pass. Even a beer mug is acceptable. Coffee cup? Not so much.

7 - Introduce Yourself.
If you don't know the group you are addressing, introduce yourself and your relationship to the toastee at the beginning of your toast.

8 - Speak Clearly and Make Eye Contact.
And if you are making a toast to a particular person, make it directly to that person when speaking.

9 - Keep it Short and Sweet.
A toast doesn't have to be epic in length to be meaningful. A few well thought-out words, a famous quote, or a relevant line from a movie, can have much more impact than a long, drawn out story. Don't recount a lifetime's worth of achievements. An interesting anecdote or two is plenty. And shoot for a length no longer than 60 seconds.

10 - Leave Out the Embarrassing Stuff. And the Downers.
This is a toast, not a roast. And keep it positive. Avoid saying something like, "Here's to 2008. I hope it's better than 2007. Especially for you Bob. That divorce of yours was a nightmare."

11 - End Gracefully.
It's not necessary to finish with "Here's to Joe" or "All the best to the bride and groom". You can simply extend your glass toward the toastee.

12 - Clink and Sip.
At the end of your toast the other people at the table may want to engage in the traditional clinking of glasses. Once that has stopped, take a sip from your glass. Notice I said "sip". Save the chugging for the tailgate party.

At a complete loss for words? Here are examples of some very simple, short, yet perfectly appropriate toasts suggested by the authors of Toasts and Tributes. (Seem too obvious? Maybe. But in the pressure of the moment, they may be lifesavers.):
"Here's hoping the New Year brings us all good health and much happiness."
"A toast to my friend, __________, the richest man in town" (From It's a Wonderful Life)
"All the best!"
"To your health."

And some they suggest you avoid:
"Live long and prosper" (Unless you are at a Star Trek convention. Or a party for Leonard Neimoy.)
"Here's mud in your eye."
"My advice to you is to start drinking heavily." (From Animal House)
"Over the lips, past the gums, look out stomach, here it comes!"

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