New Year’s Eve celebrations typically have one thing in common: people expect a champagne toast of some kind right before the final countdown. The art of writing a great toast is not difficult, but you should start working on what you want to say now, so you have a chance to fine tune it.
- Know Your Audience. The most important thing to remember for any toast is to know your audience. A group of friends and family might like to hear a personal anecdote about something that happened in the last year, while co-workers want to hear blessings for a good year of business in 2015. Failure to tailor the toast to the audience makes it seem generic and bland.
- Build Them Up, Then Take Them Down. One of the primary rules of giving a speech is that you have to take the audience on a journey. In the case of your toast, you want to start your speech with something light, like a joke or a funny story from the previous year. This will get the audience to laugh and become emotionally invested in what you have to say. Be advised that off-color jokes and raunchy stories are unlikely to get you the positive response that you want from your toast. After the initial levity, you can move on to more serious topics, like wishing an ailing family member good health, telling your friends how much they mean to you and how you look forward to sharing the next year with them, or praising the work and dedication of your co-workers or employees. The more serious tone at the end is quickly lifted by the excitement of the ball drop, bringing your audience on a full circle of emotions.
- Close With Words Of Wisdom. Close out the toast itself with a line from one of the many famous figures in history and literature who spoke about the future. Benjamin Franklin and T.S. Eliot are great standards, but a Google search of the term “New Year’s Eve toasts” can help you find the right quote.
- Practice. The last thing you want to do is go over time and cut into the countdown. At the same time, you don’t want to be done so quickly that there is awkward silence between the end of your toast and the ball drop. Take the time to go over your toast, out loud with a private audience, so you can get a feel for the amount of time you need and how the audience will react. Practice also helps you to memorize the toast for the big night, so you won’t stumble through cue cards or worry about losing your prompt.
- Keep It Simple. No matter how good your toast is, the reason people are at the party is to ring in the new year, not to hear you speak. For that reason, you need to be sure to keep your speech as short and sweet as possible. The attention span of your guests may only be about 30 to 90 seconds. Anything longer than that and they will start to tune out and will miss out on your speech. A good rule of thumb is to make the toast no longer than 200 words, or about half a page of double spaced text.
In general, you need to project an aura of confidence when you start to speak. If you spent time in preparation, this shouldn’t be a problem and your toast will go off without a hitch.