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“Can you just say a few words?”
If you want to put the fear of public speaking into someone, ask that question. To add to the fear, ask the person to speak at a wedding, retirement party, funeral, or graduation. the shortest toasts in our lives can cause some of the greatest public speaking anxiety.
Where does that fear come from?
Part of it has to do with the occasion itself: an important moment in the life of someone else we care about. The second part has to do with the fact that we rarely give toasts on a regular basis.
You are well-practiced with fact-driven slide presentations. If I asked you to give your typical work presentation at a moment’s notice, you would do well. You have a reliable structure and method that work for you. You know your audience and subject matter well.
Toasts take us out of that world.
Toasts put us into the world of stand-up comedians and professional keynote speakers. They are people who have devoted years to honing their craft. Toasts shift us into the emotional sides of our minds. Toasts demand storytelling, advice-giving, and some humor, all in a 5-7 minute package.
To make matters worse, the toasts in TV and movies place the bar high for the ideal version of what a toast should be.
Why this book:
I wrote this book because I have helped many people put together a toast for a special occasion. I know what it feels like when you do not think you have anything to say. I know how it feels to have a page of mess that needs a structure. I sense the same frustration when the words will not flow. I know the sense of confusion when trying to figure out, “Is this any good?”
I want you to succeed, like each person I have worked with to deliver a memorable speech.
But can’t I hire someone to write my toast for me?
You can, and people do. Freelance speechwriter sites dot the internet. Eager freelancers bid on your posted projects on UpWork and Fiverr.
But here’s the secret: You have the right stuff within you to write a great toast. You can learn this craft to give your next speech and the one after that.
This book is your guide—as if you hired me—to write your short speech. It’s the same process that I’ve gone through with each client with tweaks to the process along the way.
Take this journey with me so that you will always be able to say, “yes” when asked to say a few words.
Which toasts does this book cover?
I take a wide definition of what a toast is: any short speech whose main goals are to honor a person and to honor an event.
When you hear the word “toast” you think of wedding speeches, and we’ll cover those. We’ll tackle retirement toasts, awards speeches, birthdays and anniversaries, and tributes. Even graduation speeches count as toasts to the graduating class.
This guide will cover moments when someone asks you to speak at your own event, and when you want to speak at someone else’s special occasion.
How to use this book:
It’s best to work through this book from beginning to end. Each chapter along the way contains exercises to help write each part of your toast. You should have a speech in mind as you work though this book.
The Companion Workbook:
The companion workbook contains a place for your answers and your draft. It also contains links to YouTube videos of example speeches.
You can download it at: https://ricespeechwriting/toast-workbook
Section 1: The Foundation For Any Toast
In this section, we’ll explore the foundation parts of any toast. You will learn how to develop a theme, choose an organization structure. You will discover how to find the content for your beginning, middle, and end.
Section 2: Specific Speeches and Examples
Here, we take the lessons learned in section 1 and apply them to specific speech types. You will see the patterns develop among the different types of toasts. You will uncover the specific demands of each speech and read examples, too.
Section 3: Composing and Editing Your Toast
You will learn how to compose your speech out loud rather than only writing it down. The techniques in this chapter will show you how to craft a speech that sounds like you. In the end, you will have an authentic speech that only you can give.
Section 4: Rehearsing and Delivering Your Toast
Once you have a great speech, you still have to deliver it well. This part takes years of speech coaching and distills them down to the essential lessons. Learn how to memorize your speech. Get comfortable using notecards. Deliver your speech with confidence.
Section 5: Tough situations. Anything from not liking the person you’re toasting to not knowing them well to preparing your speech at the last minute — this section has you covered. Here you’ll learn how to handle tough toast situations.
This book contains the full text of real speeches. Clients and gracious new friends have shared their speeches with me so that I can give them to you. Use the examples as models for your own toast. If you need more examples, the companion workbook has many YouTube links for you to explore.
Before we begin, you might have a few questions still on your mind:
Can I learn this process from now until the end of the book?
Yes! I had a client create their own speech after they had received the initial questionnaire. Once I saw this happen more than once, I knew it was possible to teach this process to others.
I’m short on time, I have to give this speech in a week, or tomorrow, what can I do?
The 3rd section has a 7-step plan that you can start with immediately. Spend a day on each step. If you have even less time, an hour per step.
You can also jump to the section on the speech you want to give rather than go through the first section.
What if I can’t give my speech in-person?
COVID disrupted in-person events: wedding receptions, retirement parties, award ceremonies. But don’t worry, I have a plan you can implement for when you can’t be at an event in-person for any reason.
I’m not good at public speaking and I’ll never get any better.
All it takes is one stinging comment on our public speaking skills to stick with us forever. Do not let those preconceived notions hold you back. Great speaking comes from proper preparation. Give the speech that is authentic to you. Ignore the ideal version of a public speaker that too many carry in their heads.
You will have a memorable and authentic draft of your toast by the end of this book.
That speech will stay with your audience for years to come. It starts with thorough preparation, asking the right questions, and putting your heart and soul into your toast. You will deliver the speech of your life.
More in this series: