One of our partners remembers a toast delivered by her CEO back in the day. He talked about all the success his agency had had during the past year, but finished every sentence with, “ . . . but that isn’t good enough.”
He thought he was encouraging people to hit a higher bar in the coming year. But when people’s best (and largely successful) efforts are dismissed, they do not feel warm or encouraged. His toast had the opposite effect. There’s nothing like making everyone feel inadequate.
Don’t do that.
Instead, remember that sentiment is the thing. Don’t try humor; humor is overrated. Instead, do kindness. In the beginning, the middle, and the end.
But what if I don’t know what to say?
Of course you know what to say. You know these people professionally better than anyone else. Just look at them and tell them how you feel about their work.
What about making a point?
No one is looking for a point. They’re looking to be touched. Get your audience to like themselves (and you) more than they did before you started speaking.
To do this right, pretend you are talking to someone in a bar. What would you say to that person about your people at work? Figure that out (mostly leave out anything negative) and there’s your toast.
Follow this technique:
- Stand up.
- Hold your glass chest high. Keep it there during the entire toast. Arm fatigue serves as a great, natural toast timer.
- Remain still, in one place, until you’ve finished talking. Then raise your glass and drink.
- Prepare to hear that you did a great job. Because you did.